Yishu Select is RedBox Review’s new feature which selects key articles from Yishu Journal for Synopsis.
“Tomorrow’s Local Library: The Asia Art Archive in Context”, Lee Weng Choy, Yishu Journal (Volume 4, Number 4, Winter/December 2005).
Founded in 2000 in Hong Kong, the Asia Art Archive (AAA) aims to become “the most comprehensive resource for Asian art”. Lee Weng Choy examines the mission and status of the AAA, both now and in the future, and points to the issues facing such an initiative as it grows and moves forward in tandem with artistic production throughout Asia.
As an independent, non-profit centre that generates as much a creative network for Asian art as a collection, the AAA brings into question the concept of an archive in the present moment. This is a pioneering venture: as a source of varied documentation on contemporary Asian art, its appearance anticipates the formation of critical density in the field. Its contexts are at once historiography, geography and the arts community; Choy imagines the futures of Asian art history that will arise from such collections. The AAA should therefore be seen as instrumental rather than as a passive library. Whilst the archive’s founders are addressing a glaring need and are admirable in their zeal to realise such a wide-ranging project, to attempt to collect all available information under one roof would be both impossible and counterproductive. Various commentators discuss the need for an active, sensitive approach to documentation that would focus on quality. In seeking to ‘make sense’ of world of Asian art and to act as a platform for debate, Choy suggests, the AAA must find its own form of legitimization for the material it selects. For such an archive coming into being now, self-reflexivity is an issue: there is a need for open, critical consideration of its role. Perhaps the most potent idea for Choy is finally that of the ‘contemporary archive’. Aside from the material it assembles in the present, the Asia Art Archive in the future will itself be not only of the moment but will have become historical as well. It is a source that at the same time intervenes in and is subject to the instability of the contemporary.
(Synopsis: Iona Whittaker).