Facades of normality
February was a busy month for Bangkok's creative scene
Try clicking "join" to just a few exhibition opening events on Facebook and you will realise how overwhelming the Bangkok art scene can actually be. There are notifications of pre-opening private views, pre-opening talks, opening parties, special performances, and, of course, an exhibition closing party again. These plethora of events are totally understandable, however, because art spaces in Bangkok are becoming more about being a fun place to hang out, and, it has to be said, art does get better after a few beers.
January was an exciting month, but personally February has so far outshone it both in terms of quality and quantity. Thanks largely to the recent Chinese New Year Gallery Hopping Night last Friday, the latest edition of Silom/Charoen Krung Gallery Hopping, viewers could catch quite a few exhibitions in just one evening stroll through the old town area.
At Soy Sauce Factory on Charoen Krung 28, new photography exhibition "Encounters" by Benya Hegenbarth (until March 7), was a bit of a let-down, especially after "HIDE" by Ren Hang and "Ms. Match" by Soopakorn Srisakul. While some of the photos were actually really good, like one of a woman's hair blowing in the wind, or a young man sitting stiffly and awkwardly on the beach while looking out to the sea, the rest felt like magazine fashion set photos that were just taken and put on the wall.
On the same day, just a short walk from Soy Sauce to Charoen Krung 36, Serindia Gallery opened the portrait series "Myanmar" by Hamid Sardar-Afkhami (Until Mar 22). As always, the lighting set-up in the gallery was perfect and managed to transport viewers anywhere the artist wanted to, and in this case to Myanmar's most diverse areas in the northwest as well as others once restricted.
Looking through an anthropological lens, the set is invaluable. Looking at them casually on a gallery-hopping night out, however, and it can be quite exhausting. Every detail of the tribal people was captured, perhaps too intently and stiffly, with the composition of some portraits featuring black background cloth. Perhaps a few movements in his subjects or unguarded moments would have loosened up the atmosphere of the photo shoot somewhat and revealed a whole new perspective on their way of living.
Coinciding with the gallery-hopping night last Friday was the launch of "Space Oh These (cra)Zy", an ongoing visual/performing collaborative art project at Thonglor Art Space that will continue every weekend until March 8.
Building on the model introduced after last year's Space project "The Other Room: Exploring The Other's Life" in which 21 artists joined and worked on their site-specific projects, this time around nine artists presented their works or started work onsite. This will be done each week from Friday to Sunday, and will be followed by another set of nine artists next weekend.
While other works like live paintings by Amy Diener or Karma Sirikogar were freshening enough, it was two video installations by Wachara Kanha that were really able to bring the poignancy and rawness from last year's show.
One video featured a man continuously walking into the street, with head bowing up and down, despite ongoing traffic and police officers trying to take him away. For the other video, a screen is placed on the floor of toilet cubicle and only one viewer is allowed in each time. The video shows random events from the day-in-the-life of a Bangkok man who dresses up like an astronaut. Throughout the video, there is also a voice-over that makes seemingly random announcements on unrelated incidents.
There is a sense of utter mystification in making sense of the modern, urban world in Wachara's videos, which is continued in the series of paintings "Disquiet" by Will Klose, a new G1 Contemporary exhibition (Until March 31).
Since its opening at the beginning of this month, the works have stayed in the back of my mind. This is not necessarily for his fine and realistic rendering of characters and narratives, as for the fact that the painting felt oddly relevant to Thailand despite the fact that Klose's scenes were those of suburban London streets.
Although set in scenes of normal and peaceful neighbourhoods, each of Klose's paintings are anything but ordinary. They range from a man lying unconscious in the garden; a harmless-looking house with a full team of forensic scientists digging in the garden; and a seemingly pointless scene of the owner of the house stopping on his way to chat with a gardener. Klose's series of paintings have no sequence and is not readily comprehensible. Many are about the lurking catastrophe behind a beautiful facade, and maybe that's why it's so appropriate and poignant in a gallery in Thailand. Take one painting from this series for instance: a happy-looking house with fire and smoke rising from the back, yet life seems to go on as normal, as if everything is fine.
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A scene from Wachara Kanha's video installation as part of Thonglor Art Space's 'Space Oh These (cra)Zy' ongoing art project.