Friday, August 23, 2019

Blissful performances at BAB

Nov 30. 2018
Photo/Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan
Photo/Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan
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By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation

9,993 Viewed

Pichet Klunchun poked fun at Thailand 4.0 while other performances draw more spectators to Bangkok’s first biennale

ON THE same weekend that the government held a major “Thailand 4.0” fair to promote innovation in Siam Square, Silpathorn artist Pichet Klunchun revived his performance “Bogus Seance Bangkok 4.0 (Four for Nothing)” at ChangChui in Taling Chan, as part of Bangkok Art Biennale 2018. It should be noted first that art is not among the keywords of this new campaign. In fact, it has never been in any government’s campaign, as if implying that no politicians can see its value in our country’s development. And so, if your children have trouble choosing between the arts or science streams in high school, you know what to tell them. 

Photo/Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan

The atmosphere wasn’t like a theatre, but an actual ritual, and that was thanks in part to the outdoor stage and numerous decorations and accessories from many religions, beliefs and cults, notwithstanding the fact that most of us are Buddhists. Dancers from Pichet Klunchun Dance Company as well as dance students portrayed familiar characters ranging from the black panther and the fat man with his rifle, to kid footballers, a navy seal in diving gear and a Wonder Woman lookalike, while another veteran dancer was running on the treadmill adorned with bank notes and the director himself portrayed the holy medium.

Photo/Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan

At the beginning, special guests in the audience were invited onstage to shave his head; later on, when he was seemingly possessed, other audience members asked such popular questions as the first-prize lottery number and the general election date. Some were given plastic watches and incense to participate in the ritual. In the end, Pichet invited all audience members to join his company for a wild dance party on stage. That was when I headed off in the opposite direction from the stage, thinking of the biennale’s slogan “Beyond Bliss” and grinning at the fact that all of these were sharp contrasts to the concurrent “Thailand 4.0” fair and highlighted much of what has recently happened here.

Photo/Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan

A few weeks ago, the Marina Abramovic Institute’s (MAI) “A Possible Island?”, eight concurrent eight-hour durational performances by eight artists, finished its three-and-a-half-week run at the 8th floor gallery of Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). The number of audience members shattered both MAI’s and BACC’s records. This reconfirms not only the audience’s interest in, or perhaps curiosity about, performance art but also the fact that galleries are no longer reserved for visual arts.

Last night, Dujdao Vadhanapakorn, another BAB artist, finished the last live performance of “Afterlight” at the same venues, while the light installation and dance video will remain on display until the end of the biennale. And as the poster in front now reads “Beyond Infinity”, the audience can expect more blissful performances there.

In the era when performances have become an integral part of biennales worldwide and even outside the frameworks of biennales, museums have opened their gallery space to performances, it’s nice to see that the first edition of BAB has followed suit without hesitation.

In our country, the number of spectators for each art genre is still limited, and so when there’s an opportunity to cross boundaries, let’s take it and go outside of our comfort zones. This will also create innovation, even if it’s not recognised by the government.

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