Korakrit Arunanondchai: Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3

Installation view of Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3
Installation view of Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 from the entrance of the exhibition
Close-up view of Arunanondchai’s mannequins showing the tattered clothing and denim covered with paint
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CoBo Social Chinese Abstraction Series

Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai’s Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 remains strongly universally relevant as it draws together elements of subculture, fiction, myth, nature and religion in the artist’s hallmark way to paint history for the impending future.

TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy K11 Art Foundation

Installation view of Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3

 

Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 is a simmering proposition for how to interrogate the social realities of contemporary life. Anyone familiar with the works of the Bangkok-raised, New York-based artist will immediately recognize the explosion of red, blue and yellow paint, the torn denim—perceived by the artist as a universal symbol of youth—and mannequins in shredded clothing that look like they just came out of some paint bomb battle.

The immersive installation—on view until the end of October at Garage Event Space in the newly opened K11 MUSEA—is a smaller, adapted, version of Arunanondchai’s solo exhibition of the same work presented in 2015 at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. It was a big year for the artist, who also made his Asia institutional debut that year in Beijing with “Korakrit Arunanondchai: 2558,” at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art. In both cases, and oftentimes in the hands of prominent institutions utilizing large exhibition spaces, visually impactful works such as Arunanondchai’s can quickly become exhausting to engage with. Here, the experience of Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 is granted room for digestion due to its thoughtful curation within an intimate space.

Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 is comprised of two components, namely “The Body” and “The Spirit”. The video work and the denim covered viewing benches form “The Spirit”, while a series of gestural body paintings made by the artist and mounted on steel scaffolding make up “The Body”. Inspired by the highly controversial act of a female contestant who painted in front of a live audience with her naked torso on “Thailand’s Got Talent”, the paintings contribute the artist’s own response to the vehement debate surrounding the definition of art that ensued in Thai media.

 

Installation view of Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 from the entrance of the exhibition

 

Central to Arunanondchai’s approach to art is the idea of performativity, defined in its most basic form as an understanding that language may hold the power to effect change in the world. In this way, the very act of performing is just one of several tools the artist adopts. In this 25-minute autobiographical cine-essay—the beating heart of the exhibition—Arunanondchai marries performance with words, expressed through voiceover and subtitles. He speaks of death and ghosts, of religion and worship, of human connectedness and memory. The myth of the great Garuda and Naga found in Buddhism and themes of Animism form a key sub-narrative in the video. We see the artist in an earnest search for Naga, but with no success. In the eyes of Chantri—the spirit inhabiting the drone and the constructed image of the artist—we are led through drone views of Thailand’s scenic islands and riversides, the artist and his pseudo-rap entourage, clips from reality TV shows, the artist painting and so much more. What Chantri allows us to see narrates how we come to interpret these otherwise unrelated clips. Everything is an act and everything is mediated.

Where new media art often fails me, and commonly in the form of video, is the lack of connectivity with the individual self it arouses. On the contrary, Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3 captured me in a way that Ron Fricke’s non-narrative documentary films Baraka (1992) and Samsara (2011) became truly memorable and special. Arunanondchai’s video is a work of cinematography that at once places us in a voyeuristic seat, but itself maintains driver control to incite self-reflection and to instill reconciliation with the turmoil of contemporaneity. Arunanondchai’s voiceover only seeks to further strengthen the autobiographical nature of the video and we begin to feel like we are inside the mind of the artist himself, seeing his inner struggle with how to think about the future.

 

Close-up view of Arunanondchai’s mannequins showing the tattered clothing and denim covered with paint

 

As we live everyday facing this present moment of social unrest in Hong Kong, Arunanondchai’s reflections and ponderings seem more relevant than ever. In one scene, he says to Chantri:
“…you said imagine the near future, when our eyes have moved to the sky. We will be looking down at each other, a connectivity equal to an escape, a bond that forms democracy as strong as friendship.”

The video—epilogue to a trilogy of video works where Arunanondchai explored notions of “Death,” “Purgatory,” and finally “Rebirth”—begins with the artist, covered in paint, standing feet deep in the river. Chantri, as we discover is voiced by the artist’s mother, says:
“…you said this was your final painting and it was made for me.”

The video concludes with Chantri staring down at Arunanondchai in the motions of completing what could be interpreted as the final painting, as he says:
“Dear Chantri, the you of the future may collect us in the present, maybe decide to call it a history, put it in a room filled with people, give them all funny names.”

The artist is then seen walking towards the river with quick determination. Sinking his feet in, the video ends as it began, suggesting the cycle of rebirth has been completed. We are left asking ourselves what is to be of the future? Through his poetic reflections, the artist appears to offer a possible, universal answer.

 

 

Korakrit Arunanondchai - Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3
26 August – end of October, 2019
Garage Event Space, Level B2, K11 MUSEA

 

 

About the artist

Korakrit Arunanondchai was born in Bangkok in 1986 and is currently based in New York. Arunanondchai earned his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009 and received his MFA from Columbia University in 2012. In his wide-ranging practice, he uses video, painting, and performance to engage with a myriad of subject matter such as history, authenticity, and self-representation. Using denim as his main working material, he creates works that seek to investigate the relationships between Western and Thai cultural narratives, belief systems, and artistic practices.

 

 


 

Denise Tsui is currently the Editor for CoBo Social. A Hong Kong-born Aussie with an addiction to coffee, her research interests are primarily in the study of exhibition models and curatorial practices and art from the Southeast Asia Region. Previously she was an editor for ArtAsiaPacific and curator for a private collection of Australian and New Zealand art. A condensed version of her postgraduate curatorial thesis on contemporary Indonesian art was published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies in 2015.

 

 
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