Monday, August 26, 2019

Behind the masks

Aug 01. 2018
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By The Nation

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“A Life in Shadows”, a documentary photography exhibition by Australian photographer Constantine Korsovitis opens on Friday (August 3) at the Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Centre as part of the PhotoBangkok 2018 festival.

Featuring more than 30 images documenting one of the oldest traditions of storytelling in the world, “A Life in Shadows” explores the nuance, sophistication and value of shadow theatre traditions in Southeast Asia – in particular Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia – and the people who perform them.

While each of these nations has its own distinct culture, they share common cultural, religious, linguistic and racial characteristics. Shadow theatre is the singular voice of the region and its common thread is the use of the Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as the source of stories.

In 2014, Constantine Korsovitis began his research on shadow theatre by photographing and interviewing with puppet masters, musicians and craftsmen in their homes. The idea was to identify the man or woman behind the artist, behind the mask of performance. The photographer is concerned with the pressure under which traditional art forms find themselves today as well as celebrating the human spirit, honouring all the artists who build this wonderful art form, several of whom have since passed away.

“A Life in Shadows” provides a glimpse of the artist’s life, beyond the confinement of the traditional performance and studio. The aim of the project is to extend beyond documentation and to elevate awareness and appreciation of traditional arts in the region and around the world. The project is also planned to culminate in a publication and a public archive of shadow theatre documentation and research. After Bangkok, the exhibition will travel to Singapore, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

The gallery is opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm and the show continues through August 26.

PhotoBangkok 2018 is the second edition of PhotoBangkok, a triennial, not-for-profit international photography festival created by the renowned Thai photographer Piyatat Hemmatat. It is running from July 5 to September 9, with the main exhibitions staged at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) and featured exhibitions housed at over 20 galleries across Bangkok. For more information, visit


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