Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paisarn Tirapongwit, “…WRONG PLACE,’ in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly news magazine.

Paisarn Tirapongwit, “…WRONG PLACE,’ in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly news magazine. Yr.57, Vol. 36, 28 May - 3 June, 2010.

“…WRONG PLACE,” is the name of Kamin Lertchaiprasert’s most recent art exhibition. Kamin is an artist in his late 40’s who has been active in the Thai art world for a long time - not only continuously exhibiting his work in one-man shows, but also being invited to show with his many friends in the same field. He is an artist who works hard with energy to spare.

In Thailand’s art circles nowadays, one should be familiar with the art and creative style of Kamin and with Kamin himself, who is reflected in expressions which many people enjoy at one level or another. Still, Kamin has been somewhat of a stranger to the artworld in Bangkok, having shifted his creative life mostly toward art activities in Chiang Mai for about 10 years. He has been there since before he had a family with wife and children.

But despite having pulled up stakes to move to Chiang Mai, Kamin still sends his work to show audiences in the capital
city of Bangkok who might take time to drop in and enjoy his work. Though he does not show frequently each year, the artist does not absent himself so long as to be forgotten.

And so it is this time. Kamin has brought his new works to show at the Tang Contemporary Art gallery. The new exhibition is entitled, ‘WRONG PLACE…’ and runs from 19 April to 31 May. During this period, the capital has been in a state of chaos and disruption. People in many areas have been living in confusion and fear in a political situation full of conflict. In the face of division stirred up by political gamesmanship insanely pushing ideas of hatred and spite, Bangkok experienced loss, violence, and many injuries and deaths.

At the same time, the clueless citizenry became apathetic hostages of the Red Shirts, who called their crowds of followers the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (nor-por-shor). In their fury, they used their own people as a shield, as hostages, in order to gain bargaining power with the segment of the government with which the United Front was in conflict.

It was ill fortune for Bangkokians. They didn’t know how to refuse, avoid, or flee from the flood of troubles with which the United Front inundated their lives for more than two months. When the evil events which the United Front precipitated had come to an end, they left behind only loss in the lives of many people of Bangkok. And there is no United Front coming out to take responsibility for the carcass of this costly disaster, or which they had a part in creating. They can do it – condemn and say that it was the fault of a government which they characterize as coming from soldiers and the elite.

And the United Front – where does it come from
? The Red Shirts who started the movement – where do they come from? They come from the massive capital backing of the fugitive ex-prime minister who continuously stirred up disorder in Thai society abroad, isn’t that so? Or will they stubbornly and loudly insist that they are a force which is pure and for the people, joined together to seek democracy, and not just hired from anyone’s purse.

Whatever the reality, what can’t be avoided is that the movement of the Red Shirts, the United Front, which closed roads and caused disorder and loss on a massive scale, especially economically, not only for the capital city of Bangkok generally, but for Thailand’s artworld, too. Denying the relation between art and politics, most members of that artworld work very hard to avoid politics. But no matter how they deny it, the Thai artworld cannot avoid being involved, because the relation between the duty, methods, and tricks of politics and government continue, whether directly or indirectly in any case.

Under this atmosphere of conflict associated with the United Front’s political rallies, chaos, and disorder, Red Shirts great and small impacted the artworld and all the various exhibitions arranged in Thailand. Shows going up in Bangkok felt the impact, too, especially some shows by individual artists with venues around Siam Square and Rachaprasong.

As for the show, ‘WRONG PLACE…’ by Kamin, though the venue is outside the Rachaprasong area and the streets taken over by the gatherings of the Red Shirts, those United Front assemblies did impact interested people who were put off from traveling near that part of town to see Kamin’s show. So the number of visitors has been reduced. The situation and atmosphere of violence and conflict has been enough to make people uneasy, or at least too threatened to consider traveling across town to see an art exhibition.
That is unfortunate, because WRONG PLACE seems to connect with or reflect our political situation in Thailand, too.

The installation consists of two, life-size, realistic, red buffaloes made of fiberglass and set facing each other. But there is a large mirror which divides them into two sections, and each buffalo appears to have a different gesture. Simply speaking, one looks restless and frustrated, the other happy and comfortable.

Both buffalo are set in fields of colorful flowers, not in grassy pastures or rice fields, as used to be the case and as most Thai people would expect. What unfolds is a tableau with two ordinary, but misplaced buffaloes. Instead of being gray or charcoal gray in color, they are a brilliant red, and so seem to fit quite well into the field of flowers.

This scenario is not much different from the people who gathered in Red Shirt crowds at commercial intersections
rather than watching over their fields and gardens or staying home with spouse and children, happy and comfortable in their own families. Instead, they found themselves in a WRONG PLACE - out of place in the concrete jungle of the capital city. And they lived and slept on the street instead of in their own homes.

Kamin’s red buffaloes restlessly cast about, unhappily misplaced in fields of flowers. Such a state of affairs could well describe us and tell us about ourselves. That is, in the world today the lives of many people may be unsettled because they are in the wrong place, going in the wrong direction. They live in surroundings that are not right for them, for their own reality.

The coming and going or the beginnings of these works by Kamin in WRONG PLACE speak through the two big, sculptured, fiberglass buffaloes standing in their fields of flowers;
they are quite a departure from his earlier work. His idea for this actually began in connection with drawings by Sompote Sae-Ang, who is an invited artist in this show.

Formerly, Sompote made pictures of buffaloes running in stampede across a field of flowers. The work was a sort of personal question. He saw it as a question posed to himself, and hoped to find an answer about his life up to that point. Perhaps it involved other people that he knew or had encountered. They were running madly, wildly, in wrong directions and wrong places which were neither right nor appropriate for them essentially.

When Kamin saw Sompote’s painting, it led him to suggest a joint project to create another work of art, and to install and show it in this exhibition, WRONG PLACE.

Generally, all the pictures in this show, as presented by Kamin Lertchaiprasert, are brought together in their outstanding point in this sculpture of red fiberglass buffaloes in their field of flowers. This is the question point, the point that makes one wonder. But that question is presented here through the point of view of Kamin, and has added in an answer to the question, expressed in philosophy of religion and written on the sculptures by Kamin.

For example: clarity, understanding; letting go, clarity; clarity, lightness; grasping, burden; good listener, good speaker; more speech, greater hollowness; more anger, more altercation; let go what cannot be changed. One feels that the content is like some of Kamin’s Buddha images, but it seems like giving answers that are rather out of place and go the wrong way.

The many varied problems in peoples’ lives nowadays include social, economic and political troubles, and it seems to me that Buddhism cannot solve or answer them all, especially concerning the ways of consumerism and materialism, of which there are limitless evil examples.

As I see it, many times with these diverse problems in society, the speakers who explain them by citing moral principles or religious and philosophical teachings sound as if they were addressing a broken heart or a drinking problem. The primary intent is to ease sadness and pain, to soothe disappointment and regret. But such counseling is only a form of temporary relief. The causes of social, economic and political problems are not addressed in such an approach, or solved, or properly healed with such preaching.

The closing down of the assembly of Red Shirt demonstrators this time is like that. Everyone scattered and left; they went home, showered and went to bed. When they get up in the morning, they pick up their lives as they lived before. Then one fine day, they will get together again to close some roads, burn down some buildings, or burn a city in order to give someone malicious satisfaction. This cycle will go on and it won’t end while the real roots of the problems remain, while no one addresses them effectively and with sincerity. The problem is not with the system, but with the uselessness and stupidity of a handful of people in our society.

After seeing this exhibition, I wondered if anyone knows if the inspiration for WRONG PLACE was Sompote’s idea. That is worth considering, since he would have had some different take on the matter, compared to Kamin. I would like to know what Sompote thinks about the question that he threw at himself, and what his answer is today. Is it different from what it was before…and if so, by how much? And, in what way?

There are only a few days left for WRONG PLACE by Kamin Lertchaiprasert and Sompote Sae-Ang. Then the curtain will come down on this show. If you, reader, are interested, go over and take a look.
Soothe your mind, and perhaps give it a rest from concerns about all the stories of the recent conflicts. You can still see it at the Tang Gallery in the underground of the Silom Gallery building on Silom Road, near the Surasak intersection from 11am to 7pm daily, Monday thru Saturday, except on Sunday.

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