Thursday, January 10, 2019

BAB :: ส่วนที่หนึ่ง :: ตัวเมือง

Cleverly using a number of venues in downtown Bangkok that are pretty much accessible by the BTS skytrain, the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB) is themed 'Beyond Bliss'. As much as I'm not keen on walking into shopping malls, I strolled by a few just to take a look at the art pieces. Thankfully for us, some venues are away from the main stretch, and that translates into fewer crowds.

I'm not particularly keen on Yayoi Kusama's installations. I'm not hot about her combination of pumpkins and polka-dots. After seeing one too many, I'm just a little not bothered about them anymore. Her installations are in Central World ('14 Pumpkins', 2017) and Siam Paragon ('I Carry On Living With The Pumpkins', 2016 and 'Pumpkin', 2017). Luckily these are venues I tend to avoid, and I have no inclination to step into the malls unless I need the supermarket.

'ALIEN CAPITAL' 2018 by Sornchai Phongsa (Thailand).The artist reflects upon the marginalized life, the unnoticeable identity of migrant workers.
The container is wrapped with loose bamboo structures tied up together with red nylon rope
signifying workers’ united efforts against all hardship.

What I firmly placed on the itinerary for downtown, was a visit to Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC). Went up to Level 9 of BACC to view 'Hello Puppy, Greeting Piggy', an exhibition that holds a collection of photographs taken by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on her travels. This photography exhibition of the Princess's is curated by the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand and BACC.

BACC is a fantastic venue smack in town. A much-needed venue, I might add. A dose of heart and soul amongst the many glitzy buildings designed to empty your pockets and steal your IQ points. Many BAB pieces are exhibited there, and I'd get my fill of all the awesome pieces I've browsed online and in the handbook. It's really cool to see how the artists have interpreted 'bliss' and what is 'beyond' that. Also, there's good coffee to be found at Gallery Drip Coffee on the ground floor. I took my time with the installations to view every piece and soak it in. As it is with each piece, at different times of the year and the state of one's life, some pieces of art will resonate, others will simply be rubbish or incomprehensible.

Not all the English names of the art installations translate exactly into Thai, especially those created by Thai artists. For example, in the photo above of 'ALIEN CAPITAL' by Sornchai Phongsa, the piece is named ‘ผีในเมือง’ พ.ศ. 2561, which is kinda literally, 'Ghosts in the City', 2018. Well, in the spirit of the work's intent of reminding us of the existence of migrant workers, the Thai name is more poignant.

'Forest Floor' 2018 by Fiona Hall (Sydney, Australia).
This piece is a shadow forest with dark secrets buried within understory.
Skeletal parts painted on bottles strewn like leaves act as residue of conflicts and genocides.

A pity I missed Marina Abramovic's symposium in November, and the performances of the artists. Although there isn't any scheduled sessions of performance art, at least I could see what the participants and practitioners of the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI) created for the biennale. The works are certainly in the spirit of the uhh 'Abramovic Method', as it is called in its jargon. In its review in October, ArtsAsiaPacific summed up these works as,

Gurugram artist Vandana stared at a candle all day long; Burmese artist Lin Htet imprisoned himself in a razor-wire lined cage for three weeks; Tehran artist Pantea ran in circles around a square steel sheet with a rope around her neck connected to pieces of chalk. The actual individual physical feats of these performers shouldn’t be trivialized, but it was unclear why any artist would submit to being exhibited under the Abramović brand in this manner. If you cared to be indoctrinated yourself, the other half of the floor gave viewers the chance to learn the Abramović method.

'Geometry of Lamentation' 2013/2018 by Jihyun Youn (South Korea/Amsterdam).
The artist “maps the inner landscape of emotion” through repetitive gestures based on Hangul.
She stitches wedding dresses at the start of the day, and at the end of the day, these dresses and walls are doused with dramatic red paint.

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