GOLOWGOSLOW exhibition at TARS Gallery & JOGJA Biennale XV
10/06/2020 - by Claire McCafferty
While Thailand’s history continues to unfold under martial law following the 2014 military coup d’état, Pisitakun’s Kuantaleng’s restless and expansive practice represents a decisive break from many of his Thai peers as he questions fundamental, and increasingly universal values without simply decrying the fact of corruption or offering neat palliatives.
Pisitakun’s works experiment with how expressions shape under different media environments, noting historical events, synthetic sounds, and traditional instruments. After some time away from the Thai art scene, October 2019 marked his return with GOLOWGOSLOW group exhibition at TARS Gallery, in addition to his debut at the 15th Biennale Jogja in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Your body of works have continuously explored subjects of political speculation and historical events that have shaped not only Thailand, but also its neighboring countries. What drew you to these subjects?
I began my career as an artist in 2009, and soon after in 2010 the Yellow Shirt/Red Shirt protests began around the Siam area. I was interested in seeing what was going on, and how each side were increasingly suppressing one another. It really made me wonder how a society could be triggered to be so divided to a point of extreme hate speech from both sides - the talk of death for mass entertainment with words such as “go and kill them”. Experiencing those moments play out as a young guy turned my interest to Thai political history, something that never even crossed my mind prior to these events.
I began producing music in 2015 for my exhibition in France, where I had an artwork that incorporated the song “Kwam Fun Un Soong Sood” (ความฝันอันสูงสุด) which could be seen as propaganda in Thailand during a specific era. Music has played a fundamental role in storytelling and culture, the spectrum of Thai songs are so diverse across the regions - I’m intrigued by the extent of what music can tell us through the lyrics, the history of the song, or even the instruments used. A traditional instrument I’m interested in, the Khene is known to Thai people as a Thai folk instrument from Isan, but in reality it was originally from Laos. Many Thai instruments are not just of Thai origin, but we simply select what we want to tell in history.
As you navigate between past and present there seems to be a correlation among the timelines, what do these themes mean to you?
Our current timeline today is replicating in our historic timeline, the line between past and present is blurred. The difference today is that the internet era no longer allows the people who previously controlled history, and attempted to make us believe in written history in textbooks to influence our perception. The internet means the access to information and the autonomy to discover beyond what is taught in school, the blurred lines between past and present enables us to understand, and combine both aspects through our individual lens - making history a variable of change. My works explore the
history of many subjects, events, and how they intersect. It doesn’t always have to be accurate but it speaks to how we’re able to keep recreating history through our own perspective.
The works displayed during GOLOWGOSLOW at TARS Gallery strike a different tone from what you’ve previously exhibited, what themes did you explore in this exhibition?
GOLOWGOSLOW was a collaboration with Rapat Bunduwanich, we’re working together in a time where our country has an uncertain direction and future, we both saw that the only thing that can make things fun and enjoyable are internet memes. There are many political memes that are not only funny, but also provoke us to think and question. I feel that memes can take you to another state where you can be entertained, and not only feel weighed down by heavy topics.
The internet has allowed infinite possibilities, opinions and sources, it’s shown that history isn’t complete or told through a single angle. Rapat and I wanted to change the expectation of an art space for this exhibition and transform the gallery space into the world of a blue computer screen - a place where you can escape like how you would in a meme.
I wanted to bring the nature of a meme and current controversial events together, such as the silencing of activists, or the murdering of refugees by using different quotes and cultural references in the works. The memes make these topics easier to digest, but at the same time it doesn’t disregard the seriousness of the events. I try to not only talk about the pain because we all have to try to withstand and live in this society, yet also keep fighting for what we believe.
Could you talk about your project at the Biennale Jogja and its significance to past and present events in Thailand?
The works shown at Biennale Jogja speak to the historical conflicts of the Isaan people, that overlaps with present events of the past decade. The faded memories of Thailand’s 2010 political protests, and Lao’s 1901-1936 Holy Man’s Rebellion (กบฏผู้มีบุญ) were brought together through visual works and traditional Isaan music known as ‘Molam’.
Surrounding the exhibition hall were drawings depicting the 2010 political protests, with the Khaen at the center. The song Lao Pan (ลาวแพน) played in the background, accompanied by lyrics of the song projected on the wall of both the original version, and the modern day version written by Bank Patiphan Luecha.
Pisitakun Kuantalaeng’s exhibition with Rapat Bunduwanich GOLOWGOSLOW was on display at TARS Gallery from the 5th October – 11th November 2019.