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50th Venice Biennial, Thailand
Press Release

Contact: Office of Contemporary Art and Culture
Ministry of Culture
Ratchadapisek Road Huaykwang
Bangkok 10310
Tel: 66 022470028 (Thailand)
Official website: http://www.culture.go.th/omac/eng/


Reverie and Phantasm in the Epoch of Global Trauma

As we live in the strange epoch of post September 11, 2001 and assault of Iraq in 2003 led by Anglo-American aggression the short entry into the 21st century has proven to be full of trauma and nightmare. Asia is seen by many Westerners as no longer a place of exotica and refuge. As daily news announces conflict and disharmony stemming from Asia, the paradise painted in the past has been lost. Travel and tourism replaced by international terrorism has resulted in jittery tensions worldwide as saviors turn to villains for the sake of democracy and liberty.

Bon voyage is a farewell wish for those who take on a journey. Expedition is made for discovery, novelty, and strangeness. The project "Reverie and Phantasm in the Epoch of Global Trauma" is a journey that takes multiple directions and time frames. The trip starts in Bangkok as Thai artists begin an imaginary trip into the past to ameliorate their anxiety of global conflict that makes the expedition an escape route as well as a plea for world peace.

Their global dream takes off into the fragmented history as travelers, merchants, missionaries, and colonizers visited the Land of Siam in the 19th Century to quench their thirst of discovery. Desire for difference made encounters between Europeans and the Siamese (Thais) exciting, exotic experience. In 1897, King Chulalongkorn of Siam (Siam later known as Thailand) made his first visit to Europe in the mission to make friendship with European sovereigns. On this trip King Chulalongkorn made a visit to The Venice Biennale. In 1907, King Chulalongkorn made his second trip to Europe where he also attended the Venice Biennale. On this occasion he saw paintings by Galileo Chini and invited him to travel to Bangkok to decorate the frescoes at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Bilateral relationship in art and culture between Italy and Thailand continued strongly as several Italian artists and architects were hired to work in Bangkok. Corrado Feroci, a Florentine sculptor, came to Thailand in 1920s and played a major role in founding the School of Fine Arts and planning public art in fascist style in the 1930s. Feroci (who later changed his name to Silpa Bhirasri) became known as the Father of Modern Thai Art.

Bangkok has been compared as Venice of the Orient. European travelers recorded and wrote about Bangkok, a city full of canals, rowboats, houses on stilts, masked dancers, and friendly inhabitants. Despite close relationship between the two nations Thai artists have not had the opportunity to participate in Venice Biennale. Like many countries from Asia, Thailand has no pavilion and with lack of funding Thai artists have remained on the periphery of the biannual international art extravaganza. Rirkrit Tiravanija has been the only Thai artist represented when he was selected for Aperto'93. "Reverie and Phantasm in the Epoch of Global Trauma" is a Thai interpretation of global dream and historical fragmentation. Production of similarities and reduction of differences have resulted in a stage of hyper reality where sameness and homogeneity are the norm in international art events. Thai artists are analogous to participants from the margins thriving to represent difference in terms of Thainess at the Thai pavilion that does not exist.

The journey from the canals in Bangkok to Venice evokes a time dislocation. Thai artists in traditional and contemporary attire are like art pilgrims whose mission is to find their space on the international art arena. To be visible, their endeavor is to construct their own pavilion (sala) in Venice despite difficulties and obstacles. Thai artists like craftsmen assemble prefabricated Thai house with posts, beams, roof, gable, wall panels transported by boat from Bangkok. In this cultural space Thai artists take on the roles of artisans, master builders, shamans, and performers. They entertain by offering national identities and exotic differences to cultural consumers who experience cultural goods at the first Thai pavilion in Venice.

Conscious of the paradigm for intercultural encounter the idea of constructing imagined space and viewer's dictatorship relates to exporting Thai exotica. Bacchanalian revelry by Thai artists and performers brings the message of merriment as well as trauma. Despite their exotic displays painting, video, carpentry, cookery, therapy, massage, and dance they become messengers and victims of global trap that causes detriment and destruction. Their endeavor to build a Thai pavilion and collaborate in teamwork to be reciprocal with the viewers comment on the hierarchy of art internationalism and system of New Art World Order.

If spectacle, carnivalesque revelry, and merriment condition artworks and location of meaning at their destination then Thai artists and Thai pavilion bring to Venice new dreams and conflicts that the viewers will be happy, sad, sensuous, and repugnant with Thai exotica. In this epoch of global trauma, zones and distinctions of good and bad, right and wrong, peace and war are no longer defined.

Apinan Poshyananda


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