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Art education

Edgy BACC exhibition serves dual purpose in training and developing those who work behind the scenes

Korakrit Arunanondchai / Alex Gvojic. There's A Word I'm Trying To Remember, For A Feeling I'm About To Have (A Distracted Path Towards Extinction), 2016.

Without artists, there would be no curators, and without curators, there would be no exhibitions. It may be a long stretch, but with this knowledge in hand, the camaraderie within Asia's art scene seems to be growing stronger than ever, and Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)'s latest exhibition Mode of Liaisons just seems to prove that.

The exhibition, curated by Pichaya Suphavanij and three other co-curators, comes from a collaboration between the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and The Japan Foundation Asia Centre under a project called the Condition Report.

The Condition Report is a two-part collaborative art project that incubates young curators by pairing them with senior curators in the Asian region -- a great initiative, as the region with its great artists, lacks skilled people behind the scenes. Mode of Liaison is the final stage of the first half of the Condition Report, where senior curators create exhibitions in Jakarta, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok as an opportunity to demonstrate the concepts and content of contemporary art in addition to training young curators. Thus, the exhibition, isn't only about the artists and their artwork, it's about the people who bring it all together as well.

"This is a very special exhibition," said Pichaya. "Because normally there's one concept for one exhibition. But this one in particular is based from three concepts from the three venues. In Bangkok, what you're about to see is the previously selected works from the other venues with the newly curated works combined to make a whole concept. It's not really fully about the artworks and the artists in contemporary time, but also the project focusing on the new generation of curators."

This emphasis on curators however may fall on deaf ears, as most casual art enthusiasts mainly go to exhibitions for the artworks and artists, which in Mode of Liaisons' case, is worth a visit. Thirteen artworks by more than 20 artists are placed strategically within the eighth floor of the BACC main gallery. Without any captions or explanations, the different pieces are loosely tied together by what Pichaya calls a necklace, simply with the broad theme of "condition report" where each artwork from each artist deals with a time, a place, and people in specific conditions.

From the Jakarta exhibition 'Sindikat Campursari'. Arie Syarifuddin, Buka Warung, Ign. Susiadi Wibowo, Nattapon Sawasdee, Thanaphon Inthong and Yingyod Yenarkarn. Nid Noi Tan, 2017.

Standout artwork includes Korakrit Arunanondchai's latest installation from last year's Berlin Biennale, Nid Noi Tan, a collaborative piece by three Indonesian and three Thai artists, Tamura Yuichiro's research of Thai dek van (motorcycle gang members), and Rirkrit Tiravanija's look into the future.

For fans, Korakrit's artwork is instantly recognisable. Giant denim pillows sit on an apocalyptic wasteland that smells of tar. In front of the pillows is a TV screen also framed with black soot, playing a beautifully shot, yet seizure-inducing video made up of scenes of the apocalypse. It's an assault on the senses, in a good way -- to lie on the comfortable pillows, breathing in tar and be taken away by the mesmerising yet poignant reminder of what the world might turn into the future.

"He talks about the catastrophe when everything is already destroyed and everything becomes flat and everything starts to be completely equal," explained Pichaya. "It's like a new beginning. The artist also combined this extinction in his mind with time-specific conditions like the marriage of his brother, his family, and all this is tied to the vision of what is the future -- what is the new world. It's the place where the show wants to start -- nowhere. Completely no time and no place."

To those who enjoy a little political subversion, Nid Noi Tan, a collaborative art piece by Arie Syarifuddin, Buka Warung, Ign. Susiadi Wibowo, Nattapon Sawasdee, Thanaphon Inthong and Yingyod Yenarkarn, is worth viewing. The result of a three-week residency in Bangkok, the artists created their own utopian/dystopian country, taking up a large portion of the gallery area. The art piece is packed full of layers from inventing their own language, their own national anthem (which plays at 12pm, 3pm and 6pm every day), national costume, national musical instrument, a red light district, and an electoral system, which explores and addresses challenges that both Bangkok and Jakarta are facing.

Taking a look at Thai culture from an outside perspective is Tamura Yuichiro's Midnight Rainbow. He researches the lives of the dek van, or Thai motorcycle gangs, stemming from his own curiosity. Divided into four chapters, Tamura befriended an ex-dek van member and created a motif of the boy's dreams and desires with materials from what these gang members want the most -- rainbow-coloured metal. Rainbow exhaust pipes, rainbow lamps, rainbow faucets and rainbow alms bowls are arranged next to each other, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing and intriguing narrative.

Rirkrit Tiravanija plays with time and space with his three giant abstract circular chrome prints. Actually part of a bigger narrative called the "Time Traveller's Chronicle", in these three pieces, titled Be Sure To Pack The Toothbrush, Eat Curry Noodles Through The Wormhole, Rirkrit was inspired by an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where in the future, everything turns into chrome. The pieces, quite calming due to their hypnotising chrome colour and patterns, create a slight reflection of the viewer.

"The point that links to this work is making the present while you're looking into the future," said Pichaya.

And hopefully, in the future, art lovers in Bangkok will get to see more interesting exhibitions like this thanks to this project's incubation.


Mode of Liaisons is on view at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) until July 2.

Rolisham Ismail (aka Ise) in collaboration with Parking Project Superfriends. Living Room Parking Project In Bangkok, 2017.

Rirkrit Tiravanija. From left to right: SECOND CHAPTER: Be Sure To Pack The Toothbrush, Eat Curry Noodles Through The Wormhole, 2013. FOURTH CHAPTER: One Magical Round, History Strings, Brush (Or Paint) The Past Away And Welcome The Present, 2013. SIXTH CHAPTER: Take The Spin Off, Unwind, Reverse Directions, And Shatter The Bonsai, On The Way Back Don't Forget To Smile, 2013.

Tamura Yuichiro. Midnight Rainbow, 2017.

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