UNFOLDING THE ARCHIVES

THROUGH THE COLLABORATION OF KLAOMAS YIPINTSOI, THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MRIGADAYGAVAN PALACE AND CURATOR, CHITTI KASEMKITVATANA, ‘HISTORY’ AND ‘CONTEMPORARINESS’ ARE GIVEN EQUAL IMPORTANCE AND COEXIST BEAUTIFULLY WITHIN THE SPACE OF THE ARCHIVES ROOM.

Using a portion of a space inside of a government-run museum to host temporary exhibitions is, undeniably, an interesting idea. It’s a model that has been widely employed by museums with a big enough capacity to do so. And within this one section of space, the old (historical data) is presented alongside the new (temporary exhibitions), causing the content of the museum to be more dynamic and interesting. Nevertheless, in the case of the ‘Archives Room’ of Mrigadaygavan Palace, with its rather limited space whose size is almost incomparable to those of the Rattankosin Exhibition Hall or Museum Siam, the approach to spatial management where the old and the new are entirely separated is understandably impossible. But under the collaboration of Klaomas Yipintsoi, the director of the Office of Mrigadaygavan Palace and curator, Chitti Kasemkitvatana (the team behind About Studio/About Café’s booming success throughout the 90s), ‘history’ and ‘contemporariness’ are given equal importance and coexist beautifully within the space of the Archives Room.

Video art ‘Mrig-’ by Tanatchai Bandasak. at some point in this video work one can see a part of a hand-embroidered partition at the window frame captured within the video, which, at the same time, causes the video itself to become one of the archives among others historical records in the archive room. Photo by Napat Charitbutra

The ‘Archives Room’ is a one-story building that was once used as the palace’s toolroom. It is located behind a cluster of throne halls situated on the outer ring of the palace. Ariya Songpraphai, the architect who oversaw the renovation of the throne halls and Archives Room provided interesting information about the architecture of the building. Constructed entirely out of concrete, the structure and foundation have stood strong for 93 years as the architecture ideally reflects the construction technology that can be dated back to 100 years ago. The renovation takes place cautiously due to the building’s aged structure while the readjustment of the floor and refurbishment of the system work are done with minimum effect on the structure (explaining why no air conditioner is installed inside of the space).

The ‘Archives Room’ of Mrigadaygavan Palace. Photo by Napat Charitbutra

The interior space is divided to serve two main functionalities: the Archives Room and the exhibition space. The Archives Room stores evidence found during the maintenance of the Palace’s throne halls and put on display are seven key architectural elements that reflect the historical context of the time when the construction took place. Among the exhibited objects are wooden panels taken from the roof frame with traces that show the use of a steam engine as a cutting tool or the scraps of newspaper stuffed in cavities that helped to determine the time of maintenance (1987-1994). Also exhibited are video renderings of the throne halls’ structures, historical documents and information about the project of the revival of the beachside forest around the Palace studied by Associate Professor Kittichet Sridit of Songklanakarin University.

Scraps of newspaper stuffed in cavities of the building that helped to date times of maintenance. Photo by Napat Charitbutra

Photo by Napat Charitbutra

The next section is the exhibition spaces that are interwoven as parts of the Archives Room’s program. ‘Mrig’ by Thannatchai Bandasak and ‘Recollection of Beach Forest’ by LIKAY BINDERY, held between 1st October 2016 and 5th January 2015 are the exhibitions that debuted the space. Both works tell stories of the Palace from different aspects and while defining themselves as works of contemporary art, the contents of the two exhibitions still revolve around Mrigadaygavan, which was the subject provided by the Archives Room.

‘Visual Diary,’ a visual record of beach forest plants encountered during a survival trip. Photo by Napat Charitbutra

‘Recollection of Beach Forest’ is a series of installation art pieces conceived from the artists’ exploration of the local beach forest between February and July of 2016. Mali Jullakiet and Pantipa Tonchukiet explored the area around Mrigadaygavan Palace and beach forest in Bo Nok sub-district of Prachuabkirikhan province before presenting their findings in three series of works of art: ‘Paper Botanical,’ the paper sculptures mimicking the shapes and forms of local trees (exhibited at the special exhibition room, Bann Chao Praya Ramrakob), ‘Visual Diary,’ the documentation of dried plants presented as an herbarium and ‘Plant Sculpture,’ a collection of resin and plaster sculptures created from molds made of different types of leaves. LIKAY BINDERY’s approach to documentation allows for viewers to see the structures and details of a great variety of leaves found within the area.

‘Plant Sculpture,’ a resin sculpture by Likay Bindery

‘Mrig,’ Thannatchai Bandasak’s video art exhibition, bears a completely different characteristic. The artist began the artistic process from a desire to photograph the portraits of the throne halls and his interest in the details of their architecture where a modular system was brought in for the design and construction of the floor plan. Such execution created the lead-in line that opens/closes the viewers’ perspective while controlling the public/private nature of each zone of the palace (the outer court, middle court and inner court). From this point, the artist was given the chance to document the inner court area. The pictures were taken from the point of view of the inhabitants who once lived in the palace, looking out, following the lead-in line that runs from the interior space through the openings of doors and windows. The images were later arranged into a work of video art. Whether it’s the palace’s restriction that prohibits the inner court from being photographed (preventing the possibility of unauthorized photographs of the Royal family’s personal belongings) or the artist’s intention to capture the images with the inside-out perspective instead of documenting the space most people have never had access to, the camera did its job of recapturing memories of the former residents, offering viewers a portion of the experience of what it would be like to live in the Mrigadaygavan Palace. Looking at the video, a strange feeling hits us as we begin to realize that the moving images before our eyes could be what the members of the Royal Court once saw.

 

Photo by Napat Charitbutra

Video art ‘Mrig-’ by Tanatchai Bandasak. at some point in this video work one can see a part of a hand-embroidered partition at the window frame captured within the video, which, at the same time, causes the video itself to become one of the archives among others historical records in the archive room. Photo by Napat Charitbutra

Apart from the two exhibitions, the space also features a number of works such as the wood sculptures by Takol Khaosa-ard, who is also responsible for the design of the furniture used in the exhibition room. Managing the content within the limited space reflects the role of the curator, who chooses not to ‘separate’ the contemporary art from the overall theme of the exhibition but treats it as an ‘extension’ that explores the same subject matter, but with a different aspect and approach. Installation wise, the artworks are equally included as parts of the space of the Archives Room. No particular piece of art is given special attention as every displayed object in the room is exhibited under the same lighting (and as a result, causing some of the works such as ‘Visual Diary’ to go a bit unnoticed). It remains to be seen what the next exhibition will be and how the curator will find a way to work the content outside the subject of Mrigadaygavan Palace into the context of the Archives Room.

 

The ‘Archives Room’ of Mrigadaygavan Palace. Photo by Napat Charitbutra

TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA
www.mrigadayavan.or.th

 

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