Surachai Petsangrot and his artist friends create a unique interdisciplinary work
Thong Lor Art Art Space is once again living up to its name. A combination of theatre, recital hall and exhibition space, it can easily accommodate all genres of arts and flows perfectly with the current trend of contemporary arts in which boundaries continue to blur and arts genres blend.
Not since the art centre’s soft launch event almost two years ago, before the former guest house building went through a major renovation, has it opened all five floors of space for one event. And the credit for that is down to project curator Wasurachata Unaprom.
Over the years, theatregoers have seen the name Surachai Petsangrot credited for production design, for example in the critically acclaimed “Hipster the King”, and some have even watched him perform on stage. Now, not only do we get to know more of his visual arts talent in his solo exhibition “Lone Man and the Flowers” but we also witness how his artist friends respond to his paintings in various ways.
The box office table has been moved to the stairs and so the experience starts at the door to the second floor. Surachai’s artistic statements can be read on walls throughout the building, although I personally found that he was revealing a little too much and stopped reading after a few. The bar and reception area is dimmer than usual but thankfully it’s still possible to enjoy a pre-show coffee.
At 7.45pm, musician Maneerut Singhanart, dressed similarly to the character in the painting “Maechi bon phuen” (“Apprentice Nun on the Ground”) on a wall, takes the small stage in one corner and for a percussion and singing performance that is a delightful overture to a world with which we think we’re familiar.
Fifteen minutes later and we are now on the fifth and top floor, where the writing from the world-famous solo work “Bang Lamerd” can still be seen. Here, sitting on the floor underneath pieces of white fabrics onto which video images are projected, we listen to Wasurachata dressed in a white tank top and underpants and sitting on a swing holding a bubble gun, as he recounts a story inspired by Surachai’s “Chakrawan fong sabu” (“Bubble Universe”) painting.
Still later and one floor down, Suranya Poonyaphitak performs a short play written by B-Floor Theatre’s Sarut Komalittipong, inspired by Surachai’s “Nak mayakon khap mon dokmai” (“Magician and Flower’s Spell”), around a long table covered with red roses that are withering to various degrees.
“These roses are actually one single rose, with different fates,” Suranya repeats.
Further down, on the third floor, the physical movements of Crescent Moon Theatre’s Sukanya Pheansri are reflected in a mirror in a piece inspired by Surachai’s “Tai pha chan” (“Under moonlit cliff”).
The final performance is on the ground floor, another highly flexible space where most performances take place. More paintings are on display, with theatrical lighting directing our attention to each one or each group of them and Surachai’s notes written on the floor. The highlight is the title piece “Kep dokmai khon diao” (“Lone Man and the Flowers”). Chairs are later brought into the space and Surachai enters to sit on one, then moves to another, and as the lights fade and darkness cloaks the room, the main doors open to reveal the bustling sidewalk and street traffic of Soi Thonglor. Along with Surachai, we look to the world outside, connecting what we’ve experienced in the past two hours to what awaits us out there.
About 10 minutes are allowed for the onlookers to walk from one floor to another, and that’s enough time to feel the environment before each piece starts. My whole experience last Thursday evening would have been much more memorable if the majority of the audience, young university students, had concentrated more on perceiving the works than using their smartphones to receive calls, take photos and connect to social media.
That annoyance aside, I do wish university professors and administrators would take the chance to watch this and then start rewriting their arts education curricula. Only then will our future artists and audiences start to get out of their comfort zone and embrace the unfamiliar.
- “Lone Man and the Flowers” wraps up today. The exhibition is open for free viewing from 3 to 6pm and 9.30 to 11pm. The performance is at 7.30pm. Tickets are Bt490.
- Coming up is “Suk-ka-sak-ka-raj”, a “manual for time travel” by Yui Cello in collaboration with a stage actor, a documentary producer, a writer, a dancer, an illustrator and an experimental musician. It’s at 7.30pm from March 24 to April 4, except Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets are Bt450 (at the door), Bt400 (by advance transfer) and Bt370 (students).
- Thong Lor Art Space is a three-minute walk from BTS Thonglor. For details, call (095) 024 4555 or check Facebook.com/ThongLorArtSpace.