By Wilawan Wiangthong, Rinyaphat Nithipattaraahnan, Sutthamon Worapong , Slalee Sombutmee
I feel good as I am odd.
Present Thai women are incredibly charming. Their charm is not necessarily recognized from their facial characters or luxury clothing, but issues that they want to communicate to public. They are confident and smart. They are not paranoid easily by trivial matters. Thai women of ‘Baby Boom’ and ‘Generation X’ always reserve their opinion and surrender to superior discourses, as they might think that it is the way of making society well-organized and conflict-free. Compared with them, present-day women are considered odd as they talk a lot, and always find their ways out of these powerful discourses. Let’s us listen to what young Thai female artists communicate and of what they try to find their way out.
Wilawan Wiangthong shows us an odd family consisting of four female members. They represent the real members of her family, which includes her mother, two cousins, and the artist herself. When she was young, her relatives and neighbors always said that her family was odd as the members did what others normally did not do. For example, instead of using a bamboo ladder to climb up to repair the roof, the artist’s mother stacked up tables, cabinets, and other existing objects until the stack was high enough to reach the roof. She did not pay much intention to this criticism. Later, as an adult, she gradually comes to an understanding: the oddity of her family has developed from a financial restriction. It encouraged her mother to create every possible means to accomplish everyday life missions. Certainly, the cousins and the daughter have learnt how to conquer obstacles in their individual life through methods that others do not apply. It can be seen that this particular oddity originally came from others’ judgment, not from the artist’s own idea invention. She looks wildly into their judgment and finds it interesting! She therefore gives shape to it by making it cute as well as weird, visually attractive as well as dreadful with a reference to mixed media including sculpture, ceramic, and performance. This is the creative method that she has applied to find the way out of relatives’ and neighbors’ discourse.
Rinyaphat Nithipattaraahnan does not hesitate to let us know that her identity can be moved and transformed by leaving her social status untouched. We may be familiar with this fact: a woman is a daughter of her mother, mother of her child, wife of her husband, and employee of an organization. Some statuses are definite and some are changeable. All of these female statuses are based on social process. In a governmental form, women’s identity must be clarified by the name of their parents, husband, and children. This kind of identity is constructed for social administrative and monitoring purposes that leave alone the true nature of who they are. However, Rinyaphat reflects that women are wise enough to find a way out of these social statuses recorded in the administrative system. She moves from Rinyaphat, a university lecturer, to be other identities that the administrative system cannot clarify. Video performance is treated as a chosen tool to give shape to her alternative identities. Her identities move, transform, and overlap, as they are flexible, variable, and organic. She tells that it is easier and happier not to be Rinyaphat at all times. Being someone else, or in other words, not feeling attached to one’s social status, may undo problem in certain situations.
Abortion is considered illegal and immoral in Thai society. Although realizing that this grand discourse cannot be easily challenged, Sutthamon Worapong is confident to ask us “Does a woman have a right to abortion?” Many of us might ask this question. A number of young girls grow up in inappropriate environment and are not equipped with sufficient knowledge to deal with the disease of consumerism society. One of the consequences is that young girls with unplanned pregnancy go straight to abortion. Actually, Sutthamon does not want to force us to answer, as any answer does not fix real causes. Neither does the abortion law. As this widely-known situation is impossible to settle easily soon in this hypocritical society, she chooses to present a less widely-known situation with a reference to video and performance. She slightly forces us to encounter a body that has blood, fresh, and various emotions ranging from extreme enjoyment to sorrow and confusion. In most scenes, locations in which the body is are recognizable. They are footpath, public toilet, and apartment hallway. There is one unidentified location that she wants her audiences to enter and witness the body that is suffering and agonizing from something inside her torso. At the end, that body has to stand up and reconstruct its soul alone. She gradually re-creates self-esteem and keeps moving without a word. She intentionally leaves her question about the right to women’s body to us.
Slalee Sombutmee is exploring a political situation with a great interest. She is interested in more people who come to the gathering especially female protesters, than political leader’s statement. When encountering disagreement, by nature, women apply indirect methods for example passing their message via others or gossiping. This behavior is different from male’s behavior that encourages men to apply direct methods. These male and female behaviors are instinct that the nature has granted to humans since the primeval age. In the case of political gathering (2013-2014), Slalee carries out a fieldwork and finds that female protesters do not apply purely primeval methods. They apply some parts of male’s methods. Another natural character of female is that she can mingle with others more smoothly than male. Female protesters who come from different spaces, cultures, professions, and social classes can mingle with others as they share a similar topic of concern. Furthermore, Slalee notices that they are determined and sharp to express their political attitude directly like what men naturally do. Slalee keeps observing the celebration of “collective identity” of female protesters no matter who they are, where they are from, and how old they are. Therefore, Slalee creates an artwork based on the female collective identity with a reference to a synthesis of fashion, sculpture, and video. A dress-like sculpture made of accessories and uniforms of various professions for instance business people, governmental officers, and farmers is exciting. She is implying that discourse once identifying how to categorize members of public into high-middle-low social classes is invalid in this particular situation. All humans are equal, and their collective intelligence can illuminate a true exit.
The four young female artists feel good as they are odd and different. They want to share the good feeling to all audiences. Enjoy!
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