Intra Asia Network (IAN) – A secret society for Asian artistic directors

First day of workshops in Taiwan, 2005. Participants were divided into groups to discuss different topics. Courtesy of Bamboo Curtain Studio.

Bamboo Curtain Studio (BCS) has been an independent art organization since its establishment in 1995. Like many of our Asian peers, we looked up to occidental art organizations for networking and resources for development. Nevertheless, during the Res Artis (the global artists-in-residency alliance) annual meeting in 2004, Asian members realized that they were strangers to each other and very different in operating structure compared to the occidental members. That is why BCS called for a gathering for Asian artistic directors to address the issue.

A typhoon crashed into the whole island on the second day of workshops in Taiwan, but we managed to find a venue and continue the workshop in a big group. Courtesy of Bamboo Curtain Studio.

We started to envision how things could work with Asia as a center. The presenter was Aki Hoashi of ARCUS Project, Japan, on the second day of workshops in Taiwan. Courtesy of Bamboo Curtain Studio.

With support of our Council for Cultural Affairs (now the Culture Ministry), local governments and the Asian Cultural Council, we successfully had 40 people from 16 Asian countries gathered in Taiwan to discuss the similarities and differences among us, the management of difficulties, and how we could possibly form a supporting group to share experiences and resources. It was a three-day workshop held at several sites in Taiwan. On the second day, we were trapped in Tainan city because all the traffic systems were shut down due to floods caused by heavy rain. Eventually we managed to find a venue to continue the discussion and we were well received by a local company in their canteen since all businesses outside were closed. We had a convivial evening enjoying the karaoke despite the cruel weather. Mutual understanding and trust were then forged among the participants after the typhoon and intensive communication. The participants agreed to form a network that facilitated more exchanges and collaborations within Asia, and that’s how the name “Intra Asia Network” (IAN) first came about. Unfortunately, Peewee (Norberto Roldan) of Green Papaya had to cancel his attendance at the last minute due to the political turmoil in Manila.

Right after the workshop, BCS initiated an action research titled “Mapping Asian Artists’ Mobility.” We sent out 400 surveys to Asian art organizations, trying to understand the correlation between these art hubs and the energetic flow of artists, how these art hubs could develop partnership with one another, and the way they survived under the local atmosphere. The outcome of the research was a report titled “Below the Radar Screen: dynamic new artist led movements in Asia” that was first presented in IAN’s next meeting in Korea in 2006.

Discussion on possible structure of a new network, still on day 2. The presenter was Averyl Rodrigues from The Necessary Stage in Singapore. Courtesy of Bamboo Curtain Studio.

All participants enjoyed the convivial karaoke night in Tainan while the typhoon raged outside. Courtesy of Bamboo Curtain Studio.

Peewee (Norberto Roldan) from Green Papaya gave a short presentation about his expectations during the opening of the IAN workshop in Korea, 2006. Courtesy of Bamboo Curtain Studio.

Though it’s always painful to get funding, after the 2005 workshop, we thought it was indispensable for members to meet in person so as to develop a more concrete guideline and to initiate some pilot projects as models for future collaboration. The 2006 meeting was hosted by Ssamzie Space, with Dr. Kim Hung-hee as its director, and co-organized by BCS and BizArt from Shanghai, China. Peewee had a problem again getting a visa because he lacked a financial certificate (a common problem for art workers actually). Luckily, the situation was solved before his departure. This time, 33 participants from 15 Asian countries attended the event. We were divided into three groups to investigate these topics:

1. Alternative strategies for residency programs

2. Funding intra Asia connections – resource development and policy

3. Reinforcing cooperation – international exchanges

As there were newcomers and some collaboration proposals were raised this time, we all agreed to go full steam with this intra Asia exchange. Several members were delegated to transform the discussion into action. Therefore, a Yahoo! group, a website, and a Wikipedia page were established with joint effort to showcase this new network and to facilitate regional communication.

Group photo of workshop group 3 participants in Gwangju, Korea. Courtesy of Ssamzie Space.

Last workshop session was held in Ssamzie Space, Seoul. Courtesy of Ssamzie Space.

Say “Yes” to IAN 2006 in Seoul. Courtesy of Ssamzie Space.

However, as IAN was designed to be a loose network and all members were volunteers to common affairs, members were then easily dragged by their daily business. It was rather difficult to pull things together. BCS made some attempts like curating a “harbor festival” inviting artists from Asian harbor cities but eventually could only invite two Asian artists to join the residency program in Tamsui, Taipei, lacking the financial support for a bigger event.

Somehow a good relationship was maintained among all members despite malfunction of the network. BCS has been using the connections for regional artists referral and to learn intra Asia happenings. For example, BCS has made an artist exchange program with several Asian art organizations including 98B in the Philippines. IAN is still fruitful as an organic platform and can be considered a great tool for Asian artistic directors, even after years of fading into the background.

Anne Yao

July 23, 2020

With a background in social studies, Anne Yao has been a cultural practitioner since 1998, specializing in cross-cultural exchange programming and impact research. She worked with Bamboo Curtain Studio from 1998 to 2010 and helped organize many milestone projects with its founder, Margaret Shiu. She currently lives and works in Taipei where she has been focusing more on art intervention initiatives with her husband, artist Yuyo Pan.

More info:

Bamboo Curtain Studio website

"Intra Asia Network." (last edited on 1 Aug 2018)

"New Ways of Engaging Asia." (2006)

Mio Iwakiri. "Hot Workshop in a Big Typhoon." (1 Sep 2005)

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Right People, Wrong Timing (RPWT) is a series of texts on defunct or inactive independent Asian arts initiatives that had crossed paths or ran parallel to Papaya's own 20-year history. With new posts every Friday from August to December 2020, RPWT is kindly supported through a local grant by the Japan Foundation Manila.