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The Art of the Matter: Tradition and progress collide in "Time After Time: Asia and Our Moment," a new exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Bill Picture of the Examiner Staff | San Francisco Examiner, Arts and Culture | April 28, 2003
© 2003, San Francisco Examiner

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts helps shed some light on the ongoing clash between progress and tradition in Asian culture with "Time After Time: Asia and Our Moment," a new CenterFest exhibition on display at Y.B.C.A. through July 13.

Artists from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, representing a wide range of mediums from the visual arts to film to dance, play with the concept of time and offer a unique perspective on a people's struggle to modernize while retaining some sense of cultural self.

Unlike Americans, who seem only too happy to trade in the discomforts of the past for the convenience that the future promises, Asian cultures are trying to find a way for old and new to coexist. Thus, urban centers throughout Asia are literally dotted with examples of this then-and-now approach to progress, like a skyscraper built directly adjacent to a 1,000-year-old-temple.

While the artists participating in "Time After Time" certainly want to offer viewers a chance to see this dichotomy through their eyes, they also want to challenge or perhaps even redefine how each viewer actually perceives time.
Some of the artists attempt to do this by immersing the viewer in the more traditional Asian experience, by recreating the energy of a bustling marketplace or the peaceful vibe of a spot in town where locals regularly gather for a chat.

Others bring tradition up to date. Shinoda Taro, for instance, puts a low-tech, but very contemporary spin on the rock gardens of his native Japan. For "Milk." Taro suspends fluorescent lights on a moving track above a of white liquid, casting a serene, meditative glow on the still pool below.

Still others, like Yin Xiu Zhen, prefer to mix things up. For "International Flight," Zhen wraps a large-scale model of a 747 in a quilt made from clothing acquired as the work has traveled from one gallery to the next, suggesting that people, like the piece itself, are an accumulation of experiences and memories.
But "Time After Time" isn't just for the so-called art-savvy. Even right-brain types, who find they have a hard time wrapping their heads around modern art, will be able to appreciate the sheer beauty of the visually stunning collection of painting, photography, sculpture and video works, not to mention the series of cultural happenings that the Y.B.C.A. staff has scheduled for the duration of the show.

Two years in the making, "Time After Time" is more than just a gallery exhibition, it's also a cultural showcase with lectures, live performances and film screenings happening simultaneously to complement the works on display in the Y.B.C.A. galleries.

Three short films by cutting edge Asian filmmakers show daily in the Y.B.C.A. Screening room with feature films and documentaries screening on weekends. On June 27 and 28, legendary Japanese butoh company Dairakudakan makes a rare stop in the Bay Area to perform its latest work, "Kotuchen: Paradise in a Jar," which the New York Times called "wildly imaginative."

" Time After Time" will forever change viewers' perception of new. Because while most were brought up to think of time as something very specific, a measurement, these artists suggest that time is something much more subjective, almost liquid, its value to be defined by each individual and the glue that actually holds a person's fragile sense of self and community together.

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