Video Still, Ho Rui An, "Student Bodies" (2019). Courtesy of the Artist.

Screening, Talk

Student Bodies: A Screening with Ho Rui An 

September 14, 2022 – September 14, 2022
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Asia Art Archive in America

23 Cranberry St. Brooklyn, NY

Asia Art Archive in America presented a screening of Student Bodies by the artist and writer Ho Rui An. First presented in 2019, Student Bodies is a work of pedagogical horror that approaches the fraught history of capitalist modernity and radical culture in East and Southeast Asia through the figure of the student body. Beginning with the students of Satsuma and Chōshū from Bakumatsu-era Japan, who in the 1860s were the first students from the country to study in the West, the work considers the student body as both collective and singular, both metaphor and flesh, standing in for the body politic of the region across the successive periods of “miraculous” economic development, crisis, and recovery through to the present day.

In Ho’s work, the “star capitalist pupil” of the United States—as political scientist Chalmers Johnson described Japan in the post-World War II period—becomes, later on in the film, the dead student protester on the streets, with each reincarnation breaking established analytical frameworks based on class, culture, and the nation-state. In the work, these monstrous transformations undergone by the student body throughout history are given voice by unseen “ghosts” whose utterances are only comprehensible through reading the subtitles. This is combined with contemporary footage and archival material that together draw out the complex interplay of historical forces that has produced the student as both the embodiment of the education system and its contradiction.

The screening was followed by a discussion with Ho and writer and curator Murtaza Vali.

Ho Rui An is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory. Working primarily across the mediums of lecture, essay and film, he probes into the ways by which images are produced, circulate and disappear within contexts of globalism and governance. He has presented projects at the Bangkok Art Biennale; Asian Art Biennial; Gwangju Biennale; Jakarta Biennale; Sharjah Biennial; Kochi-Muziris Biennale; Kunsthalle Wien; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore; and Para Site, Hong Kong. In 2019, he was awarded the International Film Critics’ (FIPRESCI) Prize at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany. In 2018, he was a fellow of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

Murtaza Vali (he/him/his) is a critic, curator, and art historian based in Sharjah and Brooklyn. His ongoing research interests include materialist art histories, ex-centric minimalisms, ghosts and other figures of liminal subjectivities and repressed histories, the weight of color and contemporary art of the Indian Ocean littoral. A recipient of a 2011 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing, he publishes regularly in various international art periodicals and in exhibition catalogues for non-profit institutions and commercial galleries around the world. Vali is Curator-at- large of FRONT International 2022: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art and Adjunct Curator at the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, where he curated the widely acclaimed inaugural group exhibition Crude (2018), which explored the relationship between oil and modernity across South West Asia. Other current and recent curatorial projects include: Proposals for a Memorial to Partition (2022-23), Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai; (with Uzma Rizvi) Accommodations, the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the 17 th Venice Architecture Biennale (2021); and Substructures: Excavating the Everyday (2020-22), a series of exhibitions about “intimate infrastructures” in the Gulf at Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi.


Student Bodies: A Screening with Ho Rui An was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.