Melissa Chiu, Museum Director and Curator for Contemporary Asian and Asian-American art at the Asia Society, has had a long involvement with Asian contemporary art and is recognized as a leading authority in the field. Prior to working at the Asia Society, she served as the founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre in Sydney, a non-profit contemporary art center devoted to promoting dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region among artists, writers, curators and filmmakers.
Additionally, Ms. Chiu has curated over thirty exhibitions with artists from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Thailand and Japan, among others. She was a founding member of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium and a driving force behind the establishment of Asian Contemporary Art Week, which will mark its sixth year in New York next Spring.
Melissa Chiu received her B.A. from the University of Western Sydney and her M.A. from the College of Fine Arts, University of South Wales. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Western Sydney and has authored many artist monographs and conference papers and has published widely in journals, magazines and for exhibition catalogues. Ms. Chiu has been a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design where she taught Asian contemporary art and design. She has also served on a number of boards and grant panels, including the New York State Council on the Arts, Museums Grant Committee and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Topic: Tolerance and Cultural Sensitivity
Melissa Chiu: I think that if I were to say anything about the way that I see the world, I think that one of the most important elements to remember is cultural sensitivity. That when we deal with . . . when we have relationships with other people in other parts of the world, I think that we can never assume that what we think we're communicating is in fact how they see it; but I think that that's what I've learned from living in different places around the world and also being, I guess, bicultural. Being bicultural, I think that that's the one thing that has influenced all of the work that I do. Another perhaps even greater issue is an issue of cultural difference that we see played out in religious differences. And we have seen it most recently in London. I think it’s also an issue of course here for the United States, and it’s dealt with very differently in different places. But I think that the way the communities, societies, and nations are able to deal in a sophisticated way with cultural difference, most societies today are much . . . contain much . . . many more different kinds of communities. There are very few places in the world that are ________ today. And so I think in the future, our ways of dealing with different cultures in our society will have a great impact on our . . . great impact on peace, for example, and a great impact on the quality of life. I think that some societies have dealt better with it than others. Some have been addressed through government policies. I think that there are . . . there are some policies that are . . . that are more successful than others. And one of the major issues is always about integration. That for . . . for individuals to feel like they are part of the society in which they reside, they have an owner . . . an ownership or a say in the way that that society is owned and governed is probably the most important issue. And I think that that’s when people become . . . When it doesn’t happen, that’s when people and groups and communities become disenfranchised. And I think that that’s when we see great social unrest and other sorts of issues that come from that.
Recorded on: 7/11/07