Limitless Cinema in Broken English

July 11, 2009

SOCIAL FUNDAMENTALISM STUDIES (2009, Suebsang Sangwachirapiban + Powarong Boonchoui, A+++++)

Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 7:27 am

I just went to see the exhibition TRUELIES (A) at Art Center Chula yesterday. I like the animation SOCIAL FUNDAMENTALISM STUDIES (2009, Suebsang Sangwachirapiban + Powarong Boonchoui, A+) very much. It is very beautiful and thought-provoking.

The information below is from an e-mail I received from Art Center Chula a few weeks ago:

“Sawasdee krub,

On Friday June 12, The Art Center had an opening reception for the “TRUELIES” group exhibition, which features works of various mediums by five artists, who are mostly Chula people. The reception received a larger group of visitors than other shows. A lot of them were students who came to see what their art (and political science) teachers have come up with as comments on and solutions to all the crises Thailand is facing.

“TRUELIES” will run until July 11. And of course, there will be an artists’ talk by the five artists, who, in this case, have been assigned a role of a curator and a critic as well. Once the date and time are settled, I’ll be emailing you again.

Meanwhile, I have a review by Narongsak Nilkhet (one of the young art critics from the Brand New 2009 project) as some info accompanying this exhibition.

Smiling with tears

Truths and lies aren’t always easy to identify. With a continuous, free-flowing movement of consumerism and globalisation, individuals are free to choose whatever product they want to buy and whichever information they want to receive. Yet, no one knows for sure if the facts they have in hand come with any hidden agendas. Just like what we say in Thai, one knows the face, but not the heart. Today, as Thai society is faced with crises of all sorts, there’s a phenomenon where certain people come out to propagate their ideologies to earn public trust and exploit this opportunity for their own gain. Sound judgement is an important tool for living in today’s society.

These difficulties and complexities are what everybody in society has been talking about. They are described and portrayed in different formats. ‘TRUELIES’ is another attempt to reflect the turmoil Thailand is going through and brainstorm for new solutions. Not only have all the five artists in this show shed light on these complex issues, but also added another layer of complexity to the exhibition. Each artist has been assigned a role of a curator as well as a critic.

‘Love is Blind’, video art by Top Changtrakul, tells a love story between a foreign man and a Thai woman who are having a romantic dinner at a restaurant by the river. As the waiter hands them the menus, the couple start their sweet, yet emotionless conversation. The video alludes to the social value that sees rural girls with little education wanting to take a shortcut to wealth by having a foreign husband. This trend comes from the fact that Thai women who are married to a foreigner tend to have a luxury life, receiving money from their husbands. When there are successful examples to see, others follow suit in hope of having the same fate. But whether marrying a foreign man will make them happy, that’s another story.

‘Cook Book’, an acrylic on canvas by Sujin Wattanawongchai, has multi-coloured rectangular stripes painted on the four canvases, reminiscent of national flags. Written on them are large-scale words – MONEY, POWER, POLITICS, GOLD, OIL and DRUG, all as colourful as their backgrounds. These words describe problems in Thai society today. On them is another layer of Thai phrases, equally gaudy, splattered across the canvases. They include: work for 1,500 and undress for 5,000; work hard for a comfortable life; a fighter; meet you when my husband doesn’t notice; know the face, not the heart; please don’t bullshit; dump me and you’ll be dead; not handsome but hot; etc. These are what we often found at the back of big trucks, just for the pleasure of other drivers following behind. They represent the livelihoods of people in the lower class as well as how they can always find some fun out of their lives. The bright colours of this work speak about a society of consumerism. The large English words point out the problems the society is facing. And the Thai phrases show the fun-loving, good nature of Thais. No matter how big the problems in their lives are, they fight smilingly as if things weren’t too bad.

The interactive installation “Phaa Paa (Well Wishes) to Help the Country” by Apichart Pholprasert is inspired by the Thai Phaa Paa Sa Mak Kee tradition, creating an atmosphere of a temple fair with Thai-style decorations. Apichart’s work has strings of small white flags hanging down from the ceiling to be tied with the Phaa Paa trees on the floor, which contain well wishes for Thailand. On one nearby wall is a map where The Golden Axe [referring to the shape of the country] is painted on by black colour. On the map, there are also gold leaves and holy threads. Not so far from the tree are a table and a chair where visitors can sit down to write well wishes for Thailand. And they’re definitely encouraged to do so.

The “Social Fundamentalism Studies” video art by Suebsang Sangwachirapiban and Powarong Boonchoui consists of old maps from different periods accompanied by Western classical music. The maps show how powerful nations fight for territories and have animals symbolic of these countries running around the globe. It’s obvious that the lines dividing countries changed throughout the time. They’re simply human creations. There’s also an inkjet picture by Suebsang entitled “Inter Under Condition”, depicting a spiral galaxy. In the middle is a bright shining star where a line of words, such as Inter Under Powerfulness, Inter Under Diplomatic, Inter Under Passion, spirals out of the center. The work wants to talk about how human beings are under these conditions that they’ve created themselves, playing the role of God creating things on earth and in the universe.

“Truthlies”, video art by Jiraporn Laocharoenwong, the only female artist is this show, features interviews with common people, including a motorcycle taxi guy, a shoe repairer, a street vendor, a security guard, a maid, a school student and a university student. They give their opinions on several issues related to their lives, such as politics and the economy. These are the people who are the majority of the country, but their voices are rarely heard or recognised. In this work, many interviewees are rather playful in their answers, which we don’t know if they come up with these ideas themselves or if they’re simply saying things they have listened from the media.

What the five artists are attempting to do is offer solutions to the chaos today’s society is facing. They hope to make this country a better, happier place, something we all want. Looking at the bright side, it’s obvious that the Thai people have become more alert to what’s going on around them, which undeniably affects their livelihoods. Problems come with pain and pain can be a good reminder that we all should re-examine the situation we’re in, learn from it and prevent it from happening again in the future.

For more information, please contact:
Siriwat Pokrajen (Yo)PR Officer
Tel: 081-629-0457

The Art Center
7th Floor, Center of Academic Resources (Central Library)
Chulalongkorn University
Phyathai Pathumwan Bangkok 10330
Tel: 0-2218-2965, Fax: 0-2218-2907
Monday-Friday: 9.00-19.00 น.
Saturday: 9.00-16.00 น.
Closed on Sunday and public holidays”


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