By Pawit Mahasarinand
SPECIAL TO THE NATION
Artist+Run gallery, part of the gallery cluster N22, was packed out on the evening of Thailand’s national children’s day two Saturdays ago when a new exhibition “The Intangibles of Emptiness” opened. This opening didn’t feature speeches by either curator or artist but a live performance by Pichet Klunchun Dance Company who created paintings and installations that have remained on show.
For Pichet, “The” in the show’s title refers to dancers who use different parts of their bodies to create meaning in the assigned empty space, and for him, this ends, also, in emptiness after the performance. This work is thus his attempt to record such intangible emptiness.
In the small gallery filled with excited audience members, standing and sitting on the floor and chairs, plus many who couldn’t make it inside, members of Pichet Klunchun Dance Company, in construction worker outfits, walked around with both painting and construction materials and tools. What looked like an abstract painting was created by the performers who shifted back and forth between building and painting, with choreographed dance movements.
The performance, or the construction, continued outside the studio, after Pichet kicked open a seemingly locked door in the wall. With the gallery door now blocked by a waist-high brick wall, the audience had no choice but to follow the performers out through this small opening. Another painting was then created by the dance ensemble, while many materials were put into a working cement mixer.
Smoke was constantly emitted and many onlookers chose to stand further away. Thinking back about the performance now that the PM 2.5 issue reached a crucial point, many would be able to make the connection, just as Pichet intended, between the artists and the construction workers – both are craftsmen who need special skills in their works. We would also think about the fact that many materials are thrown out or put aside before the final work is shown to the public.
Also cheekily fun and ironical was the choice of background music, which covered a wide range of genres, as if to remind us that in many countries classical western music is not restricted to elite art aficionados and, by contrast, country music doesn’t appeal just to bluecollar workers. And in any democratic society, contemporary arts should be open and comprehensible to all people, no matter what their educational or economic background.
What made this similar to most exhibition openings, though, was the fact that most of the audience was made up of those working in visual arts, and very few in performing arts. And so while this work attempts to bridge the gap between these two fields in a country where most people think that such a division is still necessary, this remains a work-in-progress. Also, for the wider general public, this involves a visit to the exhibition to see the works and watch the video recording of the live performance, or record of the intangible emptiness, without the creators being present.
Word is that Pichet is planning to take this interdisciplinary work, first seen last year at a Chiang Rai mountain resort hotel, forward and will soon revive it in a larger gallery for a wider audience. Stay tuned.