Survival Techniques at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

MoCP explores “Narratives of Resistance,” largely through video.

Photograph: Courtesy of the artist
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Ghost Teen, 2009.

In June 1967, Egypt and Israel’s Six-Day War stranded 15 cargo ships from various countries in the Suez Canal. The ships were stuck for the next eight years, and their crews were only gradually allowed to return home, so the sailors teamed up to keep themselves entertained. Swiss artist Uriel Orlow pairs footage of their makeshift Olympics and other amusements with a slideshow of concurrent world events in his installation Yellow Limbo (2011). While some pieces in “Survival Techniques: Narratives of Resistance” lack strong connections to the show’s theme, Orlow neatly documents people making the best of a difficult situation.

Curated by MoCP director Natasha Egan and Arthub Asia cofounder Davide Quadrio, this exhibition feels fresh thanks to its emphasis on video and the number of works by contemporary Asian artists on view.

Political conflicts and exile are common themes, as in Navin Rawanchaikul’s video Hong Rub Khaek (2008). Rawanchaikul interviews several members of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s Indian community, most of whom emigrated during Partition in the 1940s. The artist weaves together a fascinating narrative that transcends his dull black-and-white footage and static settings. Their religions and ages differ, but all of Rawanchaikul’s subjects insist they consider themselves Thai.

In Blued Books (2008–09), Li Mu photographs inmates of the Shanghai Juvenile Reformatory holding art books from his own collection, which he discussed with the teens. Their proud expressions remind viewers how many survival techniques are psychological.

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