Missing merit and polluted skies

Missing merit and polluted skies

Artistic director of Bangkok Art Biennale Apinan Poshyananda shares his insights of Thailand's capital city

Missing merit  and polluted skies

What does the word Bangkok evoke for you?

Bangkok has been described as the Venice of the East. To me Bangkok evokes allurement and chaos. Personally, Bangkok has a special meaning as part of the title of my first video installation How To Explain Art To A Bangkok Cock [1985].

What is your first memory of Bangkok?

As a child, watching my cousins dive and somersault naked in the Chao Phraya River, with the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, in the background.

Where do you feel most at home?

I feel most relaxed sitting in solitude in the courtyard of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho. Many memorable works, by Huang Yong Ping, Anish Kapoor, Montien Boonma and Antony Gormley, have been displayed at this temple as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Artwork for Bangkok Art Biennale 2022.

What is the mark of a true Bangkoker?

Ouch! That sounds a bit painful. Bangkok residents prefer to be called Bangkokians. Bangkokians are suave, creative and hospitable. But don't brush them up the wrong way -- then you'll see the real Bangkokians behind the façades of Bangkok smiles.

Which famous figure best embodies Bangkok?

Chadchart Sittipunt, governor of Bangkok, nicknamed the strongest human being in the land. His work rate and diligence won him a recent landslide election. But with Bangkok's recent floods, his popularity has waned.

Your favourite place for breakfast?

Friday brunch with my old school friends at Fitzgeralds Irish Pub at Sukhumvit 4, the notorious sex lane near my house. It's always fascinating to watch potbellied male foreigners and their Thai partners along the bars in Bangkok's morning sunshine.

Where are the best boutiques?

Bangkok is full of delights for shoppers, from exquisite Thai crafts and accessories to fake brand names. There are boutiques galore at CentralWorld, MBK and Chatuchak weekend market.

Two monks commuting on the Chao Phraya.

Who would be on the guest list for your dream dinner party in Bangkok?

The setting, a banquet dinner at the Peninsula Bangkok by the Chao Phraya overlooking the sculpture by Elmgreen & Dragset, with Marina Abramovic, Lee Bul, Choi Jeong Hwa, Jake Chapman, Kimsooja, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Yoshitomo Nara, Heri Dono, Jitish Kallat, AES+F and more.

Where do you go out in Bangkok?

Depends on the mood. Maybe a pub crawl with friends on Sukhumvit Road. My favourite restaurants are Gianni at Plaza Athenee and Zanotti at Soi Saladaeng.

Which artwork best represents Bangkok?

Presently, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya's giant sticker wrap on the wall of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, with exquisite female portraits and the word peace written in Thai. It has attracted millions of viewers.

Apinan Poshyananda

What is the craziest thing you've ever heard or seen on the streets of Bangkok?

Elephants strolling outside luxury malls, waterskiing on flooded streets, vendors selling delicious street food, and souvenirs amid the tear gas of Bangkok riots and arrests.

What can you only do in Bangkok?

Enjoy meatball noodles on side streets while rats as big as cats roam around the gutter.

What do you miss most about Bangkok when you are away?

Traffic jams, dirt, polluted air, frustrated taxi drivers. My four-month-old stray kitten, Boony, which means merit, who fell from the rooftop on the first day he was born. Miraculously, he survived.

Your best advice for those just visiting.

Be sure not to be deceived by Bangkok's alluring charm, because she might swallow you whole.

Street food vendors in Bangkok.

Apinan Poshyananda is chief executive and artistic director of the Bangkok Art Biennale, which runs until Feb 23.

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