On view from October 19, 2018—February 3, 2019, the first Bangkok Art Biennial takes place in 20 venues across Bangkok, showcasing 200 works. Chief executive and artistic director of the Bangkok Art Biennale, Prof Dr Apinan Poshyananda's focus of this year's biennale is to support Thai artistic projects, integrate audiences into the works on view and into parts of Bangkok less travelled, to give skills to students and volunteers, among others. The participating artists represent a large scope of Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania, including: Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, France, Turkey, India, Singapore, Cambodia, Philippines, China, Taiwan, South Africa, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Myanmar and many more.
Artist Lee Bul distorts viewers' sense of time and place with his work “Diluvium” (2018). This piece is installed in Bangkok’s East Asiatic Building. The work is an immersive installation composed of variously sized reflective surfaces that juxtapose one another. The effect is an illusion of a space that may continue on forever. That sense is jarred when the space is examined further, as the mirrored surfaces fragment that image. It has the feel of a maze, constructed for the purpose that it may never be solved. If the goal is for the viewer to navigate the maze, it is possible that the further they go inside, the more of themselves they see reflected in the space.
The work of Philippines-based contemporary choreographer Eisa Jocson discusses labour and it’s multifaceted representations, especially in regards to gender and power dynamics. These dynamics of interest are in regards to industry, politics and society. Further, the conversation around gender is complexly expanded on in relation to identity. This manifests in works that embrace various forms of dance styles including pole dancing and work as a hostess.
Her work on view at the Bangkok Biennale represents the female fairy tale cartoon character Snow White in a distorted state. She is missing arms, and her face looks strained, exhausted. This immediately clashes with the viewers expectation of seeing Snow White in a rigorously composed state where hair, makeup and clothing are in order. Jocson is responding to the inequalities of Disneyland, particularly in the Hong Kong branch. The illusion of the fairy tale becomes tainted with the confrontation of this altered form and alternative perspective through which this image can be understood. This sculptural work subverts the impossible standards and expectations associated with largely societally expected performance of gender roles and race.
The range of interests of the artists participating in this Biennale is truly expansive. Some of the artists include the collective “Art Labor” is a group which consists of three artists, namely: Thao-Nguyen Phan, Truong Cong Tung, and Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran. The collective members are all living and working in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Through working in diverse physical and conceptual contexts, the work aims to address what is shared. The work involves actions that are socially responsive by working in public or other alternative spaces to the gallery context.
Ho Tzu Nyen is another participating artist who lives and works in Singapore. Ho’s work draws on the notion of power derived from mythological narratives, and invites the examination of the context where the story can be a compelling metaphor for an understanding of the present. His range of mediums include: performance, video and installations. His work creates compelling experiential encounters for the viewer to contemplate on both physical and psychological levels. Another artist, Sherman Ong, works in film and photography. He was born in Malaysia, and at present lives and works in Singapore. The difficult to describe, expansive and ever-shifting relationship between society and the individuals who exist inside of them is a core conceptual focus of his works. Memory, perception and learned adaptations are topics examined.
There was a diverse range of performance art programming for this years Bangkok Art Biennale. One project took the form of a long duration performance workshop. This was lead by the Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović, through the MAI: Marina Abramovic Institute, from October 19, 2018, to November 11, 2018. During this span of time, the workshop participants were able to work in the Abramovic Method, and to spend time in the space of their thoughts, and feeling their body. The temporal and space responsive abilities honed by the performs involvement through immersion in the Abramovic Method focuses on presence. Several workshop participants engaged with this method of performance making for an audience. Additionally, Marina Abramovic lectured at the Siam Pavalai on October 24, 2018.
The Bangkok Art Biennale will remain on view through February 3, 2019. For more information including programming, venues, artists information, accessibility, among others, click here.