FOR ITS FIFTEENTH LEG, THE MAN&GOD EXHIBITION TRAVELED TO BANGKOK WHERE ARTISTS SEARCHED FOR WAYS IN WHICH SPIRIT AND ART IMPACT PEOPLE’S BELIEFS AND THEIR CHOICE TO BELIEVE
Initially, MAN&GOD was conceived as a book that brought together relationships between ‘humans’ and ‘God’ through the spiritual experiences of artists from different cultures. With an aim of providing a platform for both artists and designers to share their ideas under the same topic, the book grew to become a traveling exhibition that has found its way to audiences in many different corners of the world. For its fifteenth leg in Bangkok, artists searched for ways in which spirit and art impact people’s beliefs and their choice to believe. “Another objective is, obviously how to connect with the space and people, which the exhibition itself responded to by generating interaction between the art pieces and the audience. As the exhibition travels to different places it brings in the work of local artists; therefore, the Man&God exhibition is a movement that reveals the spirituality of both the personal and community-based sides” said Joseph Foo, a member of the curatorial team behind the Man&God exhibition.
‘Unseen but felt’ is the phrase that defines all things existing beyond human’s perception. Under the context of Bangkok, the city made up of a great mixture of beliefs and religions where gods and their sacred images have become a part of people’s ways of life, artists of The Uni_Form Design Studio, Unchalee Anantawat (Speedy Grandma) and Pannaphan Yodmanee co-created a work that is the result of a diverse use of mediums and techniques ranging from graphics and photography to paintings, installations and performances with the objective being for viewers to stop and contemplate the basic questions such as ‘why we were born?’ or ‘does God really exist?’
In addition to the works featured in the exhibition, the opening night welcomed a performance by Lee Swee Keong who appeared before the audience with his whole body painted in a bright white color. The artist danced in the glass room that separated the performance grounds from the audience with Anan Nakkong’s music playing in the background. art4d talked with the artist about ‘Buto’ and the artist explained how it originated after the Second World War before developing itself from the loss, pain and death overshadowing Japan at the time as people’s spirits shattered by the country’s defeat were strengthened through fear and horror.
‘Butoh’ evolved into the model of ‘Japanese ghosts’ we have seen in modern-day cinema for over half a century and, while this type of performance may be familiar to people in every continent of the word, a different interpretation by the artist helps Butoh to tell a more diverse and open story. Contemporary dancer, Lee Swee Keong, picks up ‘Butoh’ and places it in a more contemporary context, causing the adaptation and ramification to be somewhat unavoidable. “If we change the venue to some other space, somewhere very public like Siam Square, the show will become something else. Place and context are factors that significantly affect the style and characteristics of a performance,” explained Lee Swee Keong.
On the 19th of February, another performance by Sakarin Krue-on took place. As a Thai artist with one of the most diverse artistic methods, Sakarin created a new rendition of a traditional Thai performance ‘Kratua Stabs the Tiger.’ Within the context of a contemporary art space, the artist reunites two things parted by time in Bangkok’s contemporary multi cultural society while introducing a story of the country’s cultural legacy for the young generation to explore and develop further in the future.
Sakarin also created a remake of a traditional Thai performance last year in a video piece called ‘Manora and the Cobra’s Best Friend’ including another performance for the Singapore Biennale. For the show at TRIBEs Community, Sakarin collaborated with local artists and children of the Thonburo Canal community who are all descendants of a local artist family for the creation of ‘Kratua Stabs the Tiger.’ “I look at the world and see how fast it’s changing. It’s so fast that these old communities can’t catch up with the change and they freeze themselves in this sort of time capsule as the gentrification creeps in. I think this is an interesting phenomenon conceived from the conditions of the site and time, which together, becomes progress.” Sakarin combined the two elements and created a balance derived from the story of a tiger and the hunter’s family. He compared the forest at two different levels: the forest existing in the old community and the forest that is continually growing (the new urban society). He also discussed the reversed roles of our country and how now is the time for us to decide what we are going to become, the hunter (tiger) or the protector of family (huntsman), including questioning whether the hunt is needed for the sake of our own survival. “This is the issue we should be discussing today when we are faced with changes of the global and regional scale, the arrival of the ASEAN Economic Community being one of these examples.”
TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA