CDOSEA begins with a question: What constitutes the unity of Southeast Asia – a region never unified by language, religion or political power? CDOSEA proceeds by proposing 26 terms – one for each letter of the English alphabet. Each term is a concept, a motif, or a biography, and together they are threads weaving together a torn and tattered tapestry of Southeast Asia. The Dictionary has, since its inception in 2012, generated a number of filmic, theatrical and installation works by Ho Tzu Nyen. From T (for Tiger) and W (for Weretiger) emerged Ten Thousand Tigers (2014), 2 or 3 Tigers (2015), Timelines (2017), and One or Several Tigers (2017). The Nameless and The Name (both 2015) came out of L (for Lai Teck) and G (for Gene Z. Hanrahan) respectively.
Since 2016, Ho Tzu Nyen has been working with a group of collaborators to ‘manifest’ the Dictionary as a whole. With Berlin-based programmers, Jan Gerber and Sebastian Lütgert (0x2620), a platform for absorbing and annotating online materials was created to “feed” an Editing System that endlessly composes new combinations of audio-visual materials according to the 26 terms of the Dictionary.
Ho Tzu Nyen makes films, installations, and performances that begin as engagements with historical and theoretical texts. His recent works are populated by metamorphic figures such as the weretiger (One or Several Tigers, 2017) and the triple agent (The Nameless, 2015), under the rubric of The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia, an ongoing meta project. One-person exhibitions of his work have been held at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (2021), the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM] (2021), and the Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art (Oldenburg, 2019). He represented the Singapore Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Recent group exhibitions include the 13th Gwangju Biennale (2021), Aichi Triennale (2019) and 2 or 3 Tigers at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2017). Together with Taiwanese artist Hsu Chia-Wei, he also co-curated The Strangers from Beyond the Mountain and the Sea, the 7th Asian Art Biennial (2019) at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.
The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia
Concept, text, and materials: Ho Tzu Nyen
Editing system and website: Jan Gerber and Sebastian Lütgert (0x2620)
Music: Yasuhiro Morinaga
Vocals: Bani Haykal
Ongoing Single-channel HD video, algorithmic editing system, 2-channel sound
PCDuration: Infinite Installation dimensions variable, 2017
Supported by: Art Basel in Hong Kong; Mimi Brown; Randy Chan; and Platform Projects, Singapore