- Arts and Cultural Leadership in Asia ed. by Josephine Caust
In her book Arts and Cultural Leadership in Asia, Josephine Caust explores the diversity and commonality of issues prevalent within cultural, artistic, and leadership positions across different regions of Asia. It is a collection of case studies, explored by practitioners and academic researchers who address different experiential facets of artists and leaders. These contributions examine intricate details such as the relationship between governments and artists, fear of censorship, change in economic policies, entrepreneurialism, and collaborative practices within various artistic milieus on individual and [End Page 263] organizational levels. The book is a timely compilation of works on one of the most diverse regions in the world; Caust's application of an indigenous framework to understand local contexts is an important addition to the field.
The book is divided into three parts, entitled "Politics, Art and Culture," "Integrity, Adaption and Entrepreneurialism," and "Organizations, Collaborations and Individuals." Each essay fits well within the respective thematic categories. The first part starts with an essay by Terence Chong, which addresses the complicated state-theatre relationship in Singapore and highlights local artists' struggle due to censorship, elusive answers from the government on the question of leadership, and continued financial difficulties. The second essay by Luqiang Qiao of China's National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing explores the history of China's cultural growth as well as different state/private sector relationships in the arts across two periods: 1949–1978 and 1978 to the present. Qiao argues that while the "restructuring of the performing arts troupes" in the latter period reflected China's softening stance on the cultural sphere, it also illustrated apparent disconnect between the state's policies and their usefulness to artists and the wider society. In the third essay, "Growing into Failure," Oscar Ho Hing-kay writes about the development of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC). The author traces the factors leading to the establishment of the HKADC, including discontent among the arts community with regards to the impending return of Hong Kong to China and its potential consequences. Ho also traces the many challenges faced by the HKADC after its establishment, from issues plaguing the election/selection mechanism of its members to the role it adopted in later years as an executor rather than a facilitator. The author further argues that the HKADC in its current state has failed in its original goal of protecting, promoting, and defending the arts. Ho concludes his essay by saying, "the failure of the HKADC echoes the failure of the governance." The final essay in this section, by Taiwan's Liao Hsin-tien, discusses tensions between Taiwanese culture and individual identity which led to the creation of the "Manifesto for Cultural Rights." The core demand of the Manifesto called for the state to understand the importance of culture and regard it as an "integral human right." The works of cultural leadership in Taiwan reflects the importance of transforming collective action into policy. Overall, the first section of the book highlights challenges such as structural failures, financial difficulties, and leadership problems.
The second part of the book, entitled "Integrity, Adaption and Entrepreneurialism," includes case studies that address political, social, [End Page 264] and financial challenges faced by artists and companies from Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India. In the first essay on Indonesia, Sonny Rustiadi and Isti R. Mirzanti discuss how collaborative leadership was instrumental in developing Sudanese art and culture in the province of West Java. The case study discusses how two local companies merged the authenticity of their art with profitability. The groups modeled their business strategy to target young people and instilled ethnocentric values through the arts. As a result of these arrangements, the groups established direct involvement with their community and garnered greater support. Thuy Do's essay on Vietnam revolves around a theatre company which evolved in the wake of losing state funding. Ideas of inventiveness, adaptability, and a refusal to be shackled by outdated beliefs were critical in the transition to selfsufficiency. The ongoing journey of...