We are all individuals, and each of us unique. Each represents a different hue in society’s broad spectrum. Yet society influences us to overlook many of these gradations of difference, to be unwittingly blind to them or deliberately ignore them. Human beings are conditioned to stereotype and marginalize.
As for the diversity of sexual preference and gender identity, being different from the accepted norm usually results in a tension. This exhibition creates a dialogue around that tension, as voiced by dozens of artists from within Southeast Asia as well as from the transnational Indian and Chinese spheres of cultural influence and migration that have helped shape the region.
The artists’ lively discussion helps reveal what it means to grow up in society when your gender identity or preference is different from the norm. Many of them confront issues of human rights and equal justice. Some of them ask, why struggle to be “normal”, when you can celebrate being different? They discuss how boundaries are being shifted, social frameworks are being opened up, and established values are being questioned.
In Southeast Asia, the degree of tolerance varies from one place to another. But even where social acceptance is high, as it generally is here in Thailand’s capital, exclusionary practices and rules are commonplace. These often hidden biases await exposure. Yet today, a greater acceptance of diverse gender identities and preferences is emerging in Southeast Asia as in much of the world. This emergence of tolerance has to be viewed against the region’s unique mixtures of cultural and religious traditions. The protagonists in this show help us explore the social norms and frameworks of the cultures they grew up in.
Exposing the narrowness of societal norms can help us all envision alternative attitudes that are more inclusive and more respectful of difference. This should benefit everyone, since everyone is different in some way. The artistic dialogue here is specifically about tolerance and acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, but it is relevant to more than just the LGBTQ community. Broad-minded thinking serves everyone.
The first Spectrosynthesis exhibition, which featured a different group of artists and works, was held in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2017, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.