Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paisarn Tirapongwit, “On Works of Art: 50 Years of the Goethe Institute, Thailand,” in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly News.

Paisarn Tirapongwit, “On Works of Art: 50 Years of the Goethe Institute, Thailand,” in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly News.

The Goethe is one of those foreign institutes teaching about their own language, art and culture which have established centers in Thailand. These institutes facilitate better understanding among Thai people by presenting and disseminating information and various views about their country to Thai society.

One of these is the German Cultural Institute, or as most people call it in abbreviated usage, the Goethe Institute, or simply the Goethe. The duty of this German center is to spread cultural news and art of many kinds and branches, and to teach language.

From some general information I received in handouts, it appears that as of 2010, the Goethe or German Cultural Institute, has been functioning in Bangkok, Thailand, for 50 years. If you subtract 50, you find that this institute in Thailand was launched in its first year in 1960.

During that 50 year period of its history, the institute has staged many varied activities and events. One was the staging art exhibitions by inviting and collecting works of art by Thai people who make art in Thailand’s artworld. Many of these people who make art had some connection with or relation to Germany in one way or another. They had exhibitions for the public to visit and enjoy.

The art exhibition I am going to talk about here has been titled by the organizer as RETURN TICKET: THAILAND – GERMANY. It includes artworks of many varied techniques and styles, about 100 pieces. On display are the creative skills of 29 Thai individuals who make art, each of whom has had a close connection with Germany, with varied details.

Some of them traveled to Germany to study art, some for a short time, some longer. Some of them had simply traveled to Germany once or twice to have an exhibition. Some showed there many times, in many periods. Some of them settled in Germany for a while, living there for a rather long time, soaking up knowledge about the place, the environment, and what it is to be German, which could be called a rather more deep experience.

Making the journey and meeting the people, experiencing the environment, the place, and the country, these artists more or less had to feel the impact of the land of Germany in their art. Their ideas, points of view, attitudes, imaginative experience, and their search for forms, methods and techniques in creating and presenting would have to be changed. They would grow and have new ideas until they were not the same as they were before they came to Germany. Audiences may feel the mix of being Thai and being German which has been melded together, reflected, and expressed in the works of art of some of these people.

As to the names of the Thai who make art who were invited by the organizers and who sent their creative works to show in RETURN TICKET: THAILAND – GERMANY this time, they are very interesting people and all have outstanding works which have been exhibited in the past. They reflect and tell of their experience and ideas, their imagination, emotion and feeling of each person making art coming through the works, allowing us to touch and enjoy all of what appears.

Whether the maker of art is a senior person, well-known, such as Tawan Dachinee or Prapan Srisuta
, or moving down to those in their 60’s such as Jumpol Apisuk, Wornrit Ritakanee, Somboon Homtientong, Somyodt Han-Anandsuk.

The middle generation, Wasan Sittiket, Araya Radchamroensuk, Taiwijit Peungkasemsomboon,
and on the generation of Jakapan Vilasineekul, Sansern Milintsoot, Sakharin Kreu-on, Kosit Chartornthip, and the new younger generation of young men and women who are moving up into the spotlight such as Angkrit Achariyasopon, Morokot Kesklau as well as such exemplary artists as Montien Boonma.

If you read through the list of all 29 names of those who were invited to send their works for the group exhibition in this RETURN TICKET: THAILAND – GERMANY, it must be said that more than half are people who are already well-known. Hence, one feels rising in oneself a lively appetite to go and see the show.

When I traveled to see all those works on display on the 9th floor of the Bangkok Metropolitan Art and Culture Center, I was however quite disappointed. All that first appetite to see the works of those famous names was not answered in the least.

More than half of the works on show were by people making art who worked year after year, through decades, many decades
, to find their way and their own approach. But only one or two pieces by each of them, four or five works, were selected to show.

Such a tiny number of works by art makers who spent so much time continuously making creative artworks for so long were sadly inadequate. So few examples are incapable of reflecting or telling the audience, of making them feel deeply or see clearly the vision, the story that came to pass along their journey of growth and change, the process for each one of them of creating their art. Nor could these few examples show in what ways and how much or how little they differed from where they started. Or in what direction their work had changed, looking back from their beginnings in long days past.

Being touched by or appreciating only one or two of the works by each person making art could hardly enable the audience to see the direction and process of the art of each individual, the changes, and when they occurred -before or after the artist’s journey – and just how much was absorbed during their experiences in Germany.

This is what RETURN TICKET: THAILAND – GERMANY isn’t able to tell or to give an answer to the audience, especially on the point about how closely each artist came to touching the people, the environment and the society in Germany, and how much that affected (or did not affect) each art maker's experience, attitudes, ideas or creative path. Or perhaps nothing changed at all for some of them. These things are what I feel the organizers of this art show failed to accomplish this time. The loss is very sad indeed, since each of these creative individuals is so very interesting and famous.

Even the catalog which was part of the exhibition and which plays an important role, didn’t allude to the pictures which were missing from the show. These pages had very little to say about the 29 participants in the show. The catalog gives virtually nothing to expand our understanding of each individual’s creative approach, nothing to really clarify the picture. There were not even any interviews in which the art makers could tell about the results of their journey or their experience in Germany, the varied details and points of view of their visits, some of which were long, some short. What impact did these sojourns have on them and their work? How was each individual moved, and in what direction?

Well, if you don’t think much about it, traveling to Germany, RETURN TICKET: THAILAND – GERMANY is now showing at the BMA Gallery on the 9th floor, until 7 November.
If you don’t see it as empty or a waste of time – because it is seldom that we see the works of so many creative individuals in the visual arts of great skill, intellect and imagination selected and brought together in a group show like this - my best wishes for you all! Enjoy the show!

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