Circa is delighted to present the first essay from our collaborative ‘Archive Project Editor’ award. The commissioning editor is Bangkok-based Dr. Brian Curtin whose project, titled Travelling South, In Theory, supports cultural workers based in Southeast Asia to engage with Circa’s archive. Below he introduces Carlos Quijon, Jr.‘s introductory account of his project Errant Affinities: Ireland and Southeast Asia.


I am very pleased to introduce the first instalment of this online collaborative project with Circa. Full details of the project are available here.

Manila-based Carlos below offers an extensive account of the interests and methods that will inform a series of shorter essays resulting from his engagement with aspects of Circa’s archive.

This engagement is premised on, as the title of his project signals, creating affinities between the histories of contemporary art in Ireland and Southeast Asia. As a surprising (and, we believe, unprecedented) pairing, Carlos, firstly, establishes the context of his work with questions of the politics of juxtaposition. Through a reading of Irish-born Suzanna Chan’s remarkable painting The Cabinet of Exotica (1993) he opens up a series of theoretical speculations about potential relationships stemming from a primary consideration of worldliness – that is, the instabilities of tropes of nearness and distance in our global age. From this vantage, Chan’s painting less demands familiar interpretations about strange contrasts between orientalist imagery and an “Irish” agrarian backdrop than an exploration of the issue of co-presence. For Carlos, understanding co-presence is a methodological procedure. As he writes, the disparities between the regions of Ireland and Southeast Asia are too vast for a scholar to believe they can immediately add to, or begin, a corpus of knowledge. Instead, the sureties of conventional comparativist scholarship are to be challenged or re-thought; he cites Andrea Bachner’s critical insight on typical comparative methodology as a story already told, based on the assumption of an evident relationship between two or more cultures or carrying an aim of establishing commensurability.

From ideas of worldliness, Carlos brings us through a set of discussions about dislocation and displacement, global circulations, and the archipelagic. Eventually emphasising and elaborating ideas of regionality culled from theories of the transpacific and sinophone, he argues for the thinking through of relationships, and other points of temporal contact, between cultures as a project that foregrounds the coeval, homologous, or analogous; or what can be summarily termed the geopoetic. These considerations have the net effect of announcing a contribution to critical discourses that displace grand narratives about the centre and periphery, and the metropole and “local;” this regarding, but not exclusively so, colonialism, modernity, and contemporaneity. Most sharply, Carlos’ characterisation of affinities as loose, tangential, and serendipitous in the very comparison of the contemporary art of Ireland and Southeast Asia allows for a whole new vista of art historical scholarship.

We look forward to his forthcoming essays.

Brian Curtin

Bangkok, March 2023


Carlos Quijon, Jr.: Errant affinities, methods of co-presence: Learning from the transpacific and the sinophone

Errant affinities, methods of co-presence is an invitation to consider possible relations between Ireland and Southeast Asia. My project thinks about how this very activity – of placing Ireland in the vista of Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asia in the vicinity of Ireland – can offer a rethinking of the ways we imagine and navigate conditions and propositions of worldliness, an awareness of a vaster belonging or collectivity beyond constructions of nation or region.[1] To help conceptualize errant affinities and methods of co-presence between the two spaces, this introductory essay looks at the operations of the “transpacific” and the “sinophone,” two tropes that challenge the typical accounts of globalization. The transpacific, on the one hand, references the connections between Asia and Latin America, connections drawn out from Pacific exchange and Iberian colonial frameworks.[2] On the other hand, the concept of the sinophone refers to how Chinese migration can be seen in terms of the vitality of language cultures more than ethno-national or racial identity.[3] Learning from the transpacific and the sinophone, this essay provides speculative itineraries for the rethinking of imaginations of worldliness by way of an archipelagic method – foregrounding relations shaped by dispersals and dilations of islands and archipelagos instead of the integration and consolidation of landmasses and continents.

Suzanna Chan, The Cabinet of Exotica, 1993. Collection Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. © the artist
Suzanna Chan: The Cabinet of Exotica, 1993. Collection Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. © the artist

For this essay, these conditions and propositions of worldliness are inflected by what the late Okwui Enwezor described as the “postcolonial constellation” of globalization,[4] characterized by “the terrible nearness of distant places.”[5] This trope of proximity grants a number of imaginations and operations of juxtaposition. We see one register of this in the oil on canvas titled The Cabinet of Exotica (1993) by Suzanna Chan, an Irish artist who has Chinese parentage: Chan’s father is Chinese and her mother is white Irish. The work’s picture plane is divided into smaller spaces: at the bottom of the canvas is a room decorated with bright vermillion and saffron motifs. Inside it is an Asian woman in her undergarments sitting at the canvas’s rightmost edge, elbow resting on a table beside her, hand cupping her face. Her other hand is holding onto a pink silk cheongsam, limply cascading along one of her stocking-clad legs. Seated on the divan beside her is another figure in a red-brimmed hat and blue shiny overalls about to pick up a bag. Behind the figure is a screen painting adorned with what appear to be rows of teeth. The figures are waiting – either about to finish packing and about to leave, or about to unpack and prepare for a performance, perhaps. A man in a top hat, a beak-like nose, trimmed mustache, gloved and dressed in gray overalls, parts a blue silk curtain. The curtain delineates the space of the first pair of figures, a domestic scene, enclosed, bright red walls and floors, and the man who is in an outdoor farm – rows of turnip, an out-of-place lamppost, an overcast horizon.

On the topmost part of this composition is a vast clearing: dead trees on the horizon, a pair of hunting dogs running after a deer, the same overcast sky. In the middle of the canvas, interrupting this terrain, is another room. Another man, wearing a pinstriped suit and a top hat and bearing some semblance to the man in the previous tableau, is seated and cradles a doll dressed in an embroidered cheongsam. Next to him is a cabinet of curiosities: China dinnerware and vases, other dolls, and iconographic representations of the Far East.

In Chan’s painting, juxtaposition materializes in contiguity: curtains opening to rooms, an inset filled with contextually particular objects in the middle of a rural landscape, a closet that contains miniatures and ornaments that allude to objects circulating, traded from places far and beyond. The relationships brought about by these contiguous compositions are characterized by displacement. This is a particular operation of juxtaposition that in the history of postcolonial and migrant contemporaries becomes a familiar mise-en-scène: space divided into discrete areas where exotic material is cordoned off or kept, alienated from their social or cultural life.

I start with this image and the work of the exceptional Irish artist Suzanna Chan, who later became an accomplished art historian and continues to delve into the politics of race in the history of modern and contemporary Irish art, to earmark a particular conversation about co-presence that already exists in art in Ireland. Displacement is a conceit that marks this pictorial idiom in The Cabinet of Exotica, alluding to the trope of the cabinet of curiosities itself that disclosed an imagination of the world within its confined and segmented space. As mentioned earlier, this presents the conversation between disparate things as materialized in a familiar method of juxtaposition drawn out from more evident narratives of migrancy or orientalist discourse. This time, in particular, in the relationship that constitutes Chan’s particular experience and social context as an Irish-Chinese individual, artist, and art historian.

My proposed research is an attempt to coax imaginations of worldliness that see both in co-presence, imaginations that are not necessarily guaranteed by typical annotations of comparison or circulation.

Juxtapositions between Ireland and Southeast Asia are not often heard of. My proposed research is an attempt to coax imaginations of worldliness that see both in co-presence, imaginations that are not necessarily guaranteed by typical annotations of comparison or circulation. Is there a possible method in which such an unusual juxtaposition can foil anticipated failures or unproductiveness in such an atypical pairing and instead allow for affinities, however errant, to flourish?

For quite some time now, I have been thinking about resisting the ease with which we talk about Southeast Asia as a conceptual given or the ways in which we deploy it as a static, unchanging rubric. I want to do this, however, without losing sight of how the constitution of the region can become transformative and how its history can also provide conceptual tractions in thinking about rhetorics of coloniality, modernity, contemporaneity. The series of essays that comprise this effort does not profess expertise – neither on the art history of Ireland, nor of Southeast Asia. It does not lay claim to undiscovered historical links nor does it start from an emphatic claim to equivalence. Instead, it performs what the literary scholar Natalie Melas, writing about the postcolonial reconsiderations of the field of comparative literature, describes as a comparative disposition that “indexes [the comparativist’s] productive anxiety of ‘unhomeliness’ or dislocation” against the history of the discipline founded on the certainty that everything can be classed and compared with a European developmentalist world historical paradigm.[6] It is an invitation, a proposition, an experiment. Within this framework, I am interested in how such a counterintuitive juxtaposition between Ireland and Southeast Asia calls out normative conceptualizations of globalized art historical worldings: Ireland, an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Europe, vis-à-vis Southeast Asia, a mainland and maritime region in the Pacific, southeast of two civilizational giants (south of China, east of India). What kinds of relationships can this collocation surface or materialize?

This effort thus runs counter to typical dispensations of art historical inquiry that works from a baseline of comparative or circulatory relationship or equivalence.

The dislocation that this project attempts to think through inflects not only the comparativist’s disposition but also the terms of the discussion. In this essay, this dislocation extends the parameters of displacement – foregrounding not so much the question of where things should go or be, but a more open-ended and unsettled disposition towards things out of place. Writing about the “gamble of all claims to collectivity,” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak offers Derrida’s “teleopoeisis,” “to affect the distant in poiesis – an imaginative making – without guarantees,” as a way to think about the productivity of tenuousness in convening difference.[7] It is this tenuousness – brought about by poiesis at a distance – that I find productive in this endeavor as it also opens up the very parameters of the pairing between Ireland and Southeast Asia. From the geographic location, the experience and conditions of coloniality, the aspirations and anxieties surrounding discourses of modernity and contemporaneity, nation and national sovereignty, the contexts of Ireland and Southeast Asia can never be more disparate. This effort thus runs counter to typical dispensations of art historical inquiry that works from a baseline of comparative or circulatory relationship or equivalence.

Given the disparity of the two contexts in question, I would think that it would take more than just looking into the archive of Circa Art Magazine or just taking into account the meager scholarship on this connection to emerge a substantial relationship between Ireland and Southeast Asia. The aim of this essay, then, is not to offer the immediacy of a new or unaccounted for personality or archive in order to account for such an already existing relationship. What this essay of a possible framework and the series of smaller essays that will follow attempt to accomplish is then to offer methodological reconsiderations on how we think about relationships and affinities, inflecting the comparative and the circulatory with speculative and imaginative motivations. Looking out for “a generative dislocation without silencing discourse or marking the limit of knowledge,”[8] this essay proposes to think about the archipelagic as a way to foreground simultaneously a possible nexus of comparability between Ireland and Southeast Asia and an epistemological conceit that emphasizes the extensive, dispersive, and dilatory conditions of these connections.

In the afterword of the book Circulations in the Global History of Art (2015) edited by Thomas Dacosta Kaufmann, Catherine Dossin, and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, the American art historian James Elkins provides an acute observation regarding the claims of global art history that rely on circulation:

I wonder if it might be prudent not to assume that the circulatory necessarily vitiates the hierarchical. The hierarchical may well be too deeply entangled in the enterprise of art history, and in specific artistic contexts, to be uprooted by studies of circulation, which can end up being epiphenomenal in relation to ideas such as “center” and “periphery.”[9]

While the circulatory stakes a revision to how we understand art historical narratives shaped by the global art world, the inclination to exceptionalize it as a way to remedy the limitations of hierarchical thinking in art history might not be as compelling. Elkins sees the circulatory as just another methodological possibility and explains further:

[T]hese unnoticed circulations, new patterns, new maps, unexpected centers, and altered dates, may not in itself “decenter” art historical explanations. It is not the identification of circulations that does the work here: the work that is required is interpretive and, as the authors know, much remains to be done.[10]

Andrea Bachner, this time writing about the limitations of existing comparative methodologies, pursues a comparable observation in relation to how the usual trajectories of comparative scholarship are foregrounded by presupposed links between variables. Bachner explains:

Instead of expending the intellectual labor of putting together two phenomena across cultures, intercultural work frequently presupposes direct links between two or more cultures before they can be treated in conjunction. Instead of forging a connection, a connection is always already assumed, before critical work can run its course, even if the links that ground intercultural reflections need a critic’s archeological intervention to become visible.[11]

Instead of “presuppos[ing] direct links between two or more cultures before they can be treated in conjunction,” Bachner ruminates on the possibility of rethinking comparison, questioning the premises of the method’s typical deployments:

Instead of censuring intercultural constellations that are apparently fragile, such as weak links, missed encounters, precarious dialogues, or oblique analogies, for their lack of cohesion and relational ground, we should treat structures based on supposedly strong connections with at least equal suspicion. In fact, who decides which kinds of links are strong and which ones weak, according to what criteria, and based on what methodological tenets?[12]

I am interested in how the sheer difference of Ireland and Southeast Asia may motivate a different way of thinking about relations.

For this essay, I offer two theoretical formations to help sketch out possibilities of errant affinities that inflect the typical accounts of the comparative or the circulatory: the transpacific and the sinophone. These revisions allow us a glimpse of the kinds of connections and non-connections that can be accounted for vis-à-vis the indicative logics of coloniality and how these logics have limited our vantage points and methodological vocabularies especially in relation to atypical and errant juxtapositions. I choose the transpacific and the sinophone because of how they point us to tenuous and tendentious connections, connections that have recent vintage but are more hospitable to the potentials of failure or productive non-encounters. I am interested in how the sheer difference of Ireland and Southeast Asia may motivate a different way of thinking about relations. While the object of reconsideration for these essays is art historical understandings of circulation and comparison, this essay also looks at the field of comparative literature as a cognate, looking at possible intersections and inspirations.

In this particular context, I am interested in conceptualizing an archipelagic method. Particularly, understanding how the archipelagic – as a dispersed and dilated way of thinking about relations – can become formative. We can think of how the archipelagic, for instance, performs the unraveling of the logical parameters of coloniality. The transpacific and the sinophone play out possibilities of the archipelagic. It is the aim of this series of essays to proffer methodological prospects for postcolonial contexts of Southeast Asia from the examples of these two tropes. The transpacific, on the one hand, is fleshed out by looking at the place of the Philippines in the Spanish empire as one of its farthest and last colonies or the growing field of studies on Latin American and Asian cultural networks. The sinophone, on the other hand, is elaborated through accounts of the Nanyang, or the South Seas, expanding the constellations of the Southeast Asian region. In both conceptual tenors, we can draw out speculative approaches to the comparative (in the transpacific) and the circulatory (in the sinophone) that perhaps can help us in looking at the possible linking between Ireland and Southeast Asia.

The work of Javier Morillo-Alicea on the place of the Philippines in the Spanish empire and the idea of the “imperial archipelago” is one such tenor of the archipelagic. Instead of looking at the relationship of the colony to empire, Morillo-Alicea teases out a lateral approach to the history of empire by drawing out parallels between the Philippines and Latin America. For Morillo-Alicea, “[t]he country-metropole focus…has understood the workings of colonial knowledge in a largely vertical manner, i.e., through attention to the relationship of a metropole and one of its colonies.”[13] Focusing on the archipelagic resists this vertical structuring and allows “horizontal connections that existed between the colonies of a single empire” to thrive.[14]

…the archipelagic becomes a geopoetic agency wherein existing connections create their own framework for translocal affinities.

While Taiwan is not readily considered as part of Southeast Asia, rethinking the contours of the region by way of the Nanyang archipelago can make economies of affinity between Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Fujian in southeast China, and Southeast Asia become undeniable. Writing about the Nanyang archipelago, literary historian Brian Bernards proposes: “[b]y sustaining, establishing, or simply imagining new relations between islands (Borneo and Taiwan), capitals and port cities (Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Hong Kong), or regional centers (Hat Yai and Penang) that transcend national boundaries in the archipelago, the postcolonial Nanyang becomes an alternative network of affiliation to circumvent official national policies and dictates.”[15] Bernards’s astute work on these relations proposes a transcolonial possibility. ​​The transcolonial speaks to the transformation of the colonial as it disperses throughout the world. This is a horizontal framework where “imperial networks often proved to be international and global, drawing in and touching on areas and regions that ranged beyond the formal parameters of colonial relationships.”[16] The transcolonial emphasizes “the multiple networks of exchange that arose from the imperial experience, networks that connected colonies to one another … and stretched across the geographical and political boundaries that normally delimit such inquiries.”[17] In this conceptualization, the archipelagic becomes a geopoetic agency wherein existing connections create their own framework for translocal affinities.

The archipelagic traces errant affinities in this configuration. Errant here leans into displacement and dislocation, the atypical or the unlikely. Furthermore, within this framework unfold prospects of tendentious and speculative art historical connections: thinking alongside the scholars Andrea Bachner and Pedro Erber, who in writing about the remapping of the relationship between Asia and Latin America, propose “to think about intercultural exchange and transregionalism beyond naturalized relationships by being open to patterns of analogy, contemporaneity, parallelism, uneven dialogues, and failed encounters.”[18]

The extensities of the archipelago that play out in the transpacific and the sinophone prompt unlikely methods of co-presence – of allowing disparate nominations to converse not with the aim of resolving or remedying disparity or incommensurability – but for the purposes of identifying the mutations in imperial and Eurocentric narrations of worldliness. How do we rethink relations of worldliness in these more tenuous and precarious predicaments: “analogy, contemporaneity, parallelism, uneven dialogues, and failed encounters”? Furthermore, how do we harness the “epistemological and conceptual force of unusual links and comparative scenarios by focusing on productive non-encounters”?[19]

The work of Bachner and Erber on remapping the transpacific, for example, argues for thinking about global culture in terms of “unstable constellations rather than fixed relationships,” forcing one to “reframe temporal logics intertwined with spatial patterns of centers and peripheries.”[20] For them, “critical work on transregional patterns lends itself not simply to a description of existing networks, exchanges, or contact zones but instead to charting less studied, and thus maybe less conventionalized and naturalized, networked phenomena.”[21]

For Bachner and Ebrer, to mobilize “less conventionalized and naturalized networked phenomena” allows us to stake revisions to temporal relationships that colonial frameworks tend to fix in all-encompassing, singular, unilinear, and hierarchical ways:

To ground thinking in a space between Asia and Latin America means questioning conventional notions of historical time and exploring different modes of temporality that do not conform to the idea of a centrifugal flow of progress from a putative center in Europe or North America to the rest of the world.[22]

Additionally, this method allows us to recognize scales of contemporaneity that interrupts the linearity of a largely colonial-inherited linear history:

Contemporaneity (rather than relations between different stages of the same linear history) contests naturalized assumptions of uneven development and replaces hierarchical structures of influence and derivation with parallel scenarios without resorting to an illusion of equality and harmonious exchange … reimagin[ing] possible temporalities of cultural exchange and of comparative research … exploring historical repetitions for their potential to differentiate rather than as signs of some inevitable course, thus making possible the revelation of unsuspected connections that may upend our usual perceptions of world time.[23]

The work of Christopher Laing Hill on the transnational history of the naturalist novel between Brazil and Japan may exemplify one way to reconsider these linear temporalities and ways to rethink the comparative activity. Naturalism is “a genre of social documentation and critique that first appeared in France in the 1860s.”[24] Hill’s work focuses on the non-meeting of the writers Tayama Katai and Aluísio Azevedo, who became pioneering practitioners of naturalism in Japan and Brazil, respectively.[25] While Azevedo has already published novels in the naturalist vein in Brazil with books such as The Mulatto (O Mulato, 1881) and The Slum (O Cortiço, 1890), Katai, proponent of shizen shugi, discovered naturalism through a translation copy of French novelist Emile Zola’s The Conquest of Plassans (La Conquête de Plassans, 1874) which he acquired from a secondhand bookstore in 1891. While Azevedo arrived as a diplomat in Yokohama in 1897, the two proponents of naturalism never met. Hill elaborates:

A question arises: would Azevedo and Katai have recognized each other’s naturalism? If the answer is no, one explanation … would be that Azevedo and Katai mis-imitated French naturalism differently in their attempts to catch up to Europe. Another, however, would be that the history of the naturalist novel consisted of multiple, dissimilar revisions of a form to which French writers contributed less and less. Iterations of naturalism in Brazil and Japan were connected through their joint engagement with naturalist methods. Yet they were entangled – if one keeps the phrase – in something big enough that they did not directly cross.[26]

In relation to the sinophone and the Nanyang, we can look at how Bernards and the critic Shu-mei Shih account for the capacity of both categories to further refract colonial relationships between China and Southeast Asia. For Bernards, the Nanyang sketches out transcolonial reconsiderations – “one that traces archipelagic routes of Sinophone creolization, which ‘write back’ to that idea of totality.” He explains at length:

Like the Chinese sojourners and settlers in Southeast Asia themselves, the literary trope of the Nanyang crosses colonial, national, and linguistic borders to express cultural affiliation through the multiple trajectories of migration and creolization. Authors evoke the Nanyang to explore divergent migratory itineraries and relations to the dynamic environment of this tropical region. Implicating multiple readerships and discursive interlocutors, these authors endow the Nanyang with creative cultural, political, and ecological significance. With an archipelagic organizational principle, the Nanyang evolves from signifying a space of “southern barbarians” in the continental Chinese imagination to indicate a New World network of affiliation for settler communities (and their descendants) in postcolonial narratives on and from Southeast Asia.[27]

It is the sinophone that “fractures the coherence of the constructs called ‘China’, the ‘Chinese’, or ‘Chineseness’…”

Shih, for her part, proposes the category of the sinophone as a way to force open narrations of “the Chinese,” via the more discrepant “sinophone.” It is the sinophone that “fractures the coherence of the constructs called ‘China’, the ‘Chinese’, or ‘Chineseness’, all of which have functioned not only symbolically but also materially.”[28] She explains further:

[A]s the product of discrepant but interrelated historical processes involving different colonial formations (continental, internal, settler), the movements of Hua people, and the dissemination of Sinitic languages by will or by force, producing minor and minority cultures on the margins of China and Chineseness within the geopolitical boundary of China as well as without, in various locations across the world.[29]

Sinophone culture is a transnational phenomenon as one can find it everywhere in the world, but in its specific expression and practice, it is different from place to place. Sinophone culture is therefore transnational in constitution and formation but local in practice and articulation.[30]

Arguing against the limiting conceptualization of a Chinese diaspora, Shih notes that “In postcolonial nation-states across Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America, it is not far-fetched to argue that the Sinophone peoples have been historically constitutive of the local.”[31] Expounding further, Shih clarifies that:

Unlike the conception of the Chinese diaspora, the Sinophone foregrounds not the ethnicity or race of the person but the languages he or she speaks in either vibrant or vanishing communities of those languages. Instead of being perpetually bound to nationality, the Sinophone may be inherently transnational and global and includes wherever various Sinitic languages are spoken on the margins of China and Chineseness.[32]

One exceptional way that the sinophone can be useful in this series’s particular context can be seen in how Bernards illuminates its refractory power through the work of Chang Kuei-hsing, a mixed-race novelist with Chinese parentage, who was born and grew up in Sarawak, and practiced most of his career in Taiwan. Annotating the existence of “Sinophone Malaysian literature in Taiwan” through the work of Chang, Bernards theorizes conditions of the “doubly colonial and doubly diasporic.” Bernards explains:

By “doubly colonial,” I mean both the settler colonialism as well as direct colonial rule that define the Sinophone historical experience in Malaysia, and which, as we see in Chang Kuei-hsing’s writing, can become entangled in the hierarchical mechanisms of colonial administration. By “doubly diasporic,” I refer to those transnational Sinophone Malaysian authors such as Chang Kuei-hsing who were first part of a Sinophone community in Malaysia that was historically and politically construed as “non-native,” denied participation in the local, and thus, “diasporic Chinese.” Written out of their own nation’s literary canon, they became part of a Malaysian minority of writers in Taiwan who when they first arrived were recognized as “overseas students” in Taiwanese universities.[33]

In the sinophone we are made familiar with multiple modalities of coloniality and are made to acknowledge these different vectors of coloniality that lead to refractions of colonial contexts and conditions.

These are the kinds of relational tractions and conditions that can be derived from the reconsiderations of the transpacific and the sinophone. We can glean from these case studies how these methodological considerations allow for different theorizations and conceptualizations of affinity or co-presence, particularly those which are more fraught or tendentious. In the transpacific we imagine how unlikely collocations can transform the very parameters of comparative activity and learn to rethink temporal considerations of comparison. In the sinophone we are made familiar with multiple modalities of coloniality and are made to acknowledge these different vectors of coloniality that lead to refractions of colonial contexts and conditions. In the shorter essays following this methodological essay as propositional entry point, these speculative tenors become conceptual and critical aspirations in anticipating not the equivalence or commensurability of the (colonial or contemporary) contexts of Ireland and Southeast Asia, but the opportunity for coeval, homologous, or even analogous moments in the art historical and critical annotations of errant affinities between them. In this way we foreground a geopoetic procedure.

Connections between the two places are not as evident or entrenched compared to the usual suspects of comparative or relational scholarship, therefore, this project plans to explore congruent vectors or errant trajectories between the two.

The geopoetic, in this essay’s particular account, takes interest in inchoate moments that may speak to shared or divergent experiences or attitudes between the two places. It performs the procedures of “teleopoeisis” – annotating how distant places such as Ireland and Southeast Asia may affect each another through poiesis. Through the geopoetic, I am interested in thinking about productive resonances between the recent art histories of Ireland and Southeast Asia, which may become the basis of errant affinities. I am inspired by the theoretical disposition of cultural theorist Nikos Papastergiadis who, taking cue from the work of decolonial theorist Walter Mignolo, offers an account of “the productive force of being at the interstices of the global order, formed not just in acts of resistance, but also through the experience of the as yet not fully recognized responses to hegemonic globality.”[34] In this project the geopoetic becomes a way to open up the fixations of geopolitical imaginations and to account for loose, tangential, serendipitous modes of affinities between two spatial imaginations that do not immediately suggest straightforward or self-evident narrations of affinity. Connections between the two places are not as evident or entrenched compared to the usual suspects of comparative or relational scholarship, therefore, this project plans to explore congruent vectors or errant trajectories between the two. Some topics to be explored include postmodernism (Circa #48, 1989), the politics of landscape (Circa #43, 1988 / 1989), art criticism (Circa #35, 1987), notions of internationalism and local contexts, and archipelagic modes of thinking about Ireland’s and Southeast Asia’s art historical contexts. Dispersed, interstitial, serendipitous, errant but co-present and contemporary, how do we think about the world through this conversation between precarious pairings?

Written by Carlos Quijon, Jr.

Carlos Quijon, Jr. is an art historian, critic, and curator based in the Philippines. He was a fellow of the research platform Modern Art Histories in and across Africa, South and Southeast Asia (MAHASSA), 2019-20, convened by the Getty Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories project. During 2023-24 Carlos will complete a residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York City. He is widely published across a range of contexts.

[1] See Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, The Death of the Discipline (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).

[2] See Dana Leibsohn and Meha Priyadarshini, “Transpacific: Beyond Silk and Silver,” Colonial Latin American Review 25, no. 1 (2016): 1-15. See also Florina H. Capistrano-Baker and Meha Priyadarshini, eds., Transpacific Engagements: Trade, Translation, and Visual Culture of Entangled Empire (1565-1898) (Ayala Foundation, Inc., Getty Research Institute, and Kunsthistorisches Institut, 2020).

[3] See Shu-mei Shih, “The Concept of the Sinophone,” PMLA 126, no. 3 (May 2011): 709-18.

[4] See Okwui Enwezor, “The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary Art in a State of Permanent Transition,” Research in African Literatures 34, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 57-82.

[5] Okwui Enwezor, “The Black Box,” Documenta 11_Platform 5: Exhibition Catalogue (Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz, 2002), 47.

[6] Natalie Melas, All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 3.

[7] Spivak, Death of the Discipline, 31. Quoted in Melas, All the Difference in the World, 38.

[8] Melas, All the Difference in the World, 31.

[9] James Elkins, “Afterword,” in Circulations in the Global History of Art, edited by Thomas Dacosta Kaufmann, Catherine Dossin, and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel (New York: Routledge, 2015), 214.

[10] Ibid., 215.

[11] Andrea Bachner, “Nexus,” Verge: Studies in Global Asias 3, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 70.

[12] Ibid., 69.

[13] Javier Morillo-Alicea, ​​“Uncharted Landscapes of ‘Latin America’: The Philippines in the Spanish Imperial Archipelago,” in Interpreting Spanish Colonialism: Empires, Nations, and Legends, edited by Christopher Schmidt-Nowara and John M. Nieto-Phillips (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 28.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Brian Bernards, Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature (Seattle: University of the Washington Press, 2015), 19.

[16] Durba Ghosh and Dane Kennedy, eds., Decentering Empire: Britain, India and the Transcolonial World (Hyberabad: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006), 2.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Andrea Bachner and Pedro Erber, “Remapping the Transpacific: Critical Approaches between Asia and Latin America,” Verge: Studies in Global Asias 3, no. 2 (Fall 2017): vii.

[19] Ibid., xii.

[20] Ibid., xi.

[21] Ibid., xiii.

[22] Ibid., xi.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Christopher Laing Hill, Figures of the World: The Naturalist Novel and Transnational Form (Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2020), xiii.

[25] See Christopher Laing Hill, “Haven’t We Met? On the Scales of Connection,” Verge: Studies in Global Asias 3, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 86-9.

[26] Ibid., 88-9.

[27] Bernards, Writing the South Seas, 8.

[28] Shu-mei Shih, “Theory, Asia, and the Sinophone,” Postcolonial Studies 13, no. 4 (2010): 474.

[29] Shu-mei Shih, “What is Sinophone Studies” in Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 8.

[30] Ibid., 7.

[31] Shu-mei Shih, “Against Diaspora: Sinophone as Places of Cultural Production,” in Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays, edited by Jing Tsu and David Der-wei Wang (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 32.

[32] Ibid., 39.

[33] Brian Bernards, “Plantation and Rainforest: Chang Kuei-hsing and a South Seas Discourse of Coloniality and Nature,” in Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 336.

[34] Nikos Papastergiadis, “The Global, the South, the Cosmos,” in Interlaced Journeys: Diaspora and Contemporary in Southeast Asian Art, edited by Patrick D. Flores and Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani (Hong Kong: Osage Publications, 2020), 170.