Cool hunter predictions: The Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the Cool hunter predictions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Abdul Abdullah, Casey Ayres & Nathan Beard, Elephant, 2011. Digital print, 135 x 90cm. Photo: Tada Hengsapkul and Lee Anantawat. Courtesy: the artists

Meeting at art school in the mid 2000s, Abdul Abdullah, Casey Ayres and Nathan Beard soon recognised a shared cultural hybridity, each having grown up with one Australian and one Asian parent in households that maintained traditions from both backgrounds. This solidarity offered rich fodder for artistic exploration. Their initial plan, to form a fictional K-pop boy band hilariously titled Beige, was short-lived. The allusion to non-specificity would remain, however, at the core of their subsequent collaboration, The Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, whose promotion of a generic Asian-ness brilliantly lampoons the processes of multiculturalism.

Hosting an embassy in Federation Square as part of the Next Wave festival in May 2012 allowed them to collaborate with a diversity of fellow Asian-Australians through what they called an official cultural program, which incorporated tai chi, karaoke, cosplay and tea ceremonies, for a combined audience of around 60,000. Simultaneously, their role as self-appointed cultural ambassadors (for passion, beauty and wisdom respectively), clad in gold silk suits and elaborate pan- Asian headdresses, allowed them to deftly parody the performative aspects of statesmanship.

Beginning 2013 with an exhibition at Perth’s new Moana Project Space, the trio plan to take the collaboration to Asia later in the year, though each also maintains a successful solo practice. Abdullah, already a Blake Prize winner and Archibald finalist, will exhibit at home and interstate; Ayres, having recently undertaken his second solo exhibition, is planning overseas research; and Beard will investigate his family heritage in Thailand while beginning new work inspired by local soap operas. Beige may also re-form following the international success of Psy’s
Gangnam Style.

Andrew Nicholls

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