Resistance is not futile
Pasinee Pramunwong turned her hobby into a movement to save ancient cave paintings in Yala
The world renowned Mona Lisa wasn't widely recognised until it was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger was a woman who believed in a Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh and was a key person behind his fame. War photography brought truth to light. It changed perceptions of war from glory to misery.
These are intriguing stories that people, especially, art lovers can enjoy on the Facebook page Artteller and the podcast Resistance Art, both run by Pasinee Pramunwong.
Growing up with parents who were interested in art, Pasinee had been attracted to art but she isn't an artist. This sixth-year student at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, is into art archiving and art history. Pasinee spends her free time taking online classes at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and researches the subject. Since she was a child, Pasinee had a passion for writing. She wrote many essays about art, but never published them. She created Artteller after her photographer girlfriend encouraged her to publish her work.
Subjects about art can be complicated, but not on Artteller and Resistance Art. Stories posted and told by Pasinee have interesting viewpoints and are easy to understand. A post on Artteller went viral after Pasinee noted that an area in Yala that contained a cave with prehistoric paintings would become a mining operation. The hashtag #YalaCave trended for several days in an attempt to halt the operation. In the end, netizens could not stop the mining license from being granted, but Artteller demonstrated the power of social media in reaching a large number of people.
Life spoke to Pasinee about her work and art business.
What is a concept of Artteller?
It is how I see art through my lens and my interests. At the beginning, I focused on photography because in Thailand, people don't talk much about photography as an art form. It is considered to be more of a hobby or commercial art. After running a page for while, I started to broaden topics to other kinds of art.
Which post received a lot of engagement?
The Family Imprint by the photographer Nancy Borowick is a photo book of Borowick's parents, who had stage-four cancer. The portraits of her parents weren't about death or grief, but about love, capturing their final moments. The post was shared by many people. Their comments were touching. Some comments said this collection reminded them of their parents who died from cancer. Some said this work allowed them to see another side of this disease.
Left A post about prehistoric paintings in a cave in Yala went viral. Photo: facebook.com/anartteller
Why should we pay attention to art?
Art helps us to develop our soul, to understand more about the world and to understand more about ourselves. Because of art, we can see many ways of expression that open up our world. Art helps people raise questions. Lots of artists pose questions to a society and to ourselves. If we look back to the past, we found an artwork was created to resist something in a society. For instance, feminist movement artworks were created to voice women's rights. An essence of art is to raise questions. Art is an experiment. Art allows us to think, learn, grow and understand ourselves and others.
Is understanding and interpretation of art important?
Some people said we don't have to understand art. We can just feel it. Nevertheless, I think every artwork is understandable. When you see abstract paintings by Jackson Pollock, which use splash colour techniques, you may question why he had to splash colours and find more information about it. Marcel Duchamp brought a porcelain urinal to an exhibition. Don't laugh at art, but try to figure out why an artist creates it.
Why did you decide to choose the name Resistance Art for the podcast?
I believe at one point in an artist's life, there will be resistance. Any artist or art dealer or others in the art field who became household names created something new. They are black sheep and they have to resist something. They may have to fight illness or fight against other people who don't accept them or fight for an opportunity to work on their artworks.
Should artists express their comments about politics through their art?
I believe art can speak about any topic, but artists have to be sincere about themselves and others. Politics isn't macro. The personal is political. Artists don't feel it is about politics, but it affects them. Politics always affects us and artists express how politics affects them and their works personally. Last year, I went to an art institution, MoMA PS1 in New York, and saw many exhibitions about the Gulf War. An artist created a video art to convey that when he turned on the TV, he saw lots of news about the Gulf War. It is difficult to differentiate if this video art is something personal or political because it is about how he turned on the TV and there was lots of political news being broadcasted.
How did you feel when you couldn't save the prehistoric cave paintings in Yala?
It was painful, but I was surprised with the wide impact. Many people asked me about the cave paintings. I was glad that I was one of those who voiced support for the paintings. I did my best.
Below The podcast Resistance Art hosted by Pasinee Pramunwong. Photo courtesy of The Cloud
Why doesn't the art industry in Thailand show much growth?
To make art move forward, it requires three factors -- great artists, great art historians and art critics, and affluent buyers. These three factors aren't strong in Thailand. When New York became one of the art capitals of the world, it happened because many artist refugees moved from Europe. These artists brought new movements to the US. At that time, there were also many art critics who were great at storytelling. Lots of art critics and art historians stimulated in people an interest in art. Buyers were rich people who established museums and bought artworks. In Thailand, we don't have archives like in developed countries. We know that during the 60s and 70s, the US had people like Andy Warhol, but we can't identify which Thai artist stood out during the 60s and 70s.
Why can art exhibitions in developed countries reach large numbers of people?
I don't work at museums, but I notice that museums in New York and London made art easy to understand. At MoMA, there is information for both adults and children. I saw a tour guide who led a group of children. Children were questioned what they thought of art pieces and why. They don't make art difficult to reach. Labels or descriptions at museums are easy to follow. In Thailand, we have to interpret some art descriptions, even though the description is in Thai.