In his lecture, Shabbir meditates on three political phrases that have marked the writing of art history: industrial, modern, and region. The lecture focuses on a series of fragments surrounding two texts written by the historian, philosopher, and museum curator Ananda Coomaraswamy entitled Essays in Postindustrialism: A Symposium of Prophecy Concerning the Future of Society (1914) and A History of Indian and Indonesian Art (1927). Gathering these fragments into a larger mosaic, Shabbir draws a portrait of Coomaraswamy: while linking him to the sentiments of his time, he also explores the speculative possibilities that his writings hold for contemporary concerns confronting the field of Southeast Asian art.
Shabbir Hussain Mustafa is Senior Curator at the National Gallery Singapore, where he is currently the head of a curatorial team overseeing Between Declarations and Dreams, a long-term exhibition that surveys art about the region from the 19th century to the present day. Much of his work at the gallery involves meditating upon how time and modernity interact in the region we refer to as “Southeast Asia”. He was formerly a curator for South-Southeast Asian art at the National University of Singapore Museum (NUS Museum), where he initiated Camping and Tramping through The Colonial Archive: The Museum in Malaya (2011), The Sufi and The Bearded Man: Re-membering a Keramat in Contemporary Singapore (2010), and co-conceived the experimental space prep room | things that may or may not happen (since 2012). In 2015 he curated SEA STATE featuring artist Charles Lim Yi Yong for the Singapore Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale.