IT SEEMS LIKE ALL OF A SUDDEN, WE WILL BE SEEING SOME REAL AND INTERESTING ACTION FROM THE ART COMMUNITY, PARTICULARLY NEXT YEAR WHEN THAILAND WILL BE WELCOMING NOT ONE, BUT THREE ‘BIENNALE’ FESTIVALS.
It seems like all of a sudden, we will be seeing some real and interesting action from the art community, particularly next year when Thailand will be welcoming not one, but three ‘biennale’ festivals by different teams of art enthusiasts and professionals with each of them all claiming the status of being Thailand’s first biennale. To keep things from getting more confused, we are here to provide you with the needed info and see what’s what and who’s who behind the births of these three festivals.
Starting off is the Bangkok Art Biennale (September 2018-February 2019) that made its debut all the way in Venice with Professor Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and one of the country’s first art curators leading the team. The interesting thing about the Bangkok Art Biennale, in addition to the massive financial support it has received from the private sector and the collaboration of the governmental sector, is the designated exhibition sites that will be scattered around Bangkok from the Chao Phraya riverfront cultural areas such as Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Prayoon and East Asiatic Company’s old building to venues in the city center such as the BACC, Lumpini Park and shopping malls. The second biennale, which will be held during a relatively close period of time, finds its place in the natural landscape of Krabi province. Going by the name of Thailand Biennale (originally called Krabi Art Olympics), the event has the Ministry of Culture’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture with host Jiang Jiehong being chosen as the principal curator selecting over 70 Thai and international artists to create site-specific works under the theme “The Edge of Wonderland.” The last one of the bunch is the Bangkok Biennial with the reason behind the use of the English word instead of biennale being simply due to the fact that none of the staff are Italian. And while no details have been given about who the organizers are, this art festival of no theme, no control by curators and no specific venue (the word on the street is that some of the works will be exhibited in virtual reality) does come with an attempt to question the top-down approach and centralized organization of other art festivals, which sounds pretty interesting. The organizer uses the word ‘pavilion’ to define the exhibition space, for the physical presence, exhibition approach and duration can be freely interpreted. But regardless of all the speculations, the Bangkok Biennial will be the first to hit the art scene with the scheduled dates being from July to September of next year. It seems that this upcoming 2018 will finally get to welcome our very own long awaited and somewhat overdue art biennale that we’ve seen our neighbor countries hosting for years. Nevertheless, the important task for every festival to really contemplate and realize is its role, not as another tool for tourism promotion, but an artistic platform whose existence is a reflection of its very own essence as an ‘art biennale,’ so the world can really see with what objectives and what kind of perceptions on societal issues these ‘biennales’ are actually conceived from.