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Thailand at the Venice Biennale: Bringing the Thai Kitchen to the Art World
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Thailand at the Venice Biennale: Bringing the Thai Kitchen to the Art World

Picture of Bethan Morgan
Updated: 14 November 2015
Thai artists, Arin Rungjang and Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, have been selected to represent Thailand in their national pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition. The artists explore the intersection between traditional and mainstream ideologies, abstracting and reconstructing themes to produce videos and interactive sculptures.

By tradition, Thailand corresponds its pavilion theme with the overarching theme of the Venice Biennale, this year being ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’. However, for the first time since their involvement in 2003, Thailand have deciphered their theme independently, and have aligned themselves with a Thai governmental initiative; ‘Thailand: Kitchen of the World’. Both artists weave underlying food references through their work, a device which allows a successful incorporation of other cultural and historical areas of Thai life.

Arin Rungjang’s piece Golden Teardrop comes in two parts; an interactive sculpture and a video, this work incorporates factual and fictional information. The sculpture plays with layers of meaning, which are further described and developed by the supporting video.

The sculpture is constructed from thousands of handmade bronze teardrops which delicately punctuate the space as they cascade down. The individual teardrops take their shape from the traditional Thai dessert Thong Yod, which is typically served at Thai weddings. The tale of the dessert dates back to the 17th century and symbolises sweetness and fortune in love. The video captures scenes of Thai goldsmiths as they make these bronze teardrops, as well as a Japanese woman expertly making the iconic Thai desert from scratch as she relays her oral history. By focusing on the origin, process and cultural importance of Thong Yod, Rungjang explores the symbolism behind heritage and public/private relations, and re-interprets these themes in a considered visual language.

Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch’s pieces, like Rungjang’s, are the end product of an extraordinarily time consuming process which relies heavily on traditional craftsmanship. For Poperomia, Supanichvoraparch invited the villagers of Ratchaburi to wrap brightly coloured wool around red ceramic bricks, highlighting traditional methods of brick-making and weaving. This action of wrapping instantly transforms the brick’s aesthetic, and denies its original function; it completely reconfigures every element of the brick. Supanichvoraparch is, in essence, commenting on the shift and expansion Thailand has seen as a result of mainstream culture and social dissemination. Supanichvoraparch is attempting to bring the focus back by highlighting the importance of accessing the ‘authentic self’, as opposed to today’s obsession with the distractions of modern culture. The piece will be completed by the addition of a fibre-glass water buffalo skillfully constructed by Supanichvoraparch. The buffalo, a symbol of Thailand’s agricultural heritage, links the piece back to the overarching theme of Thai cuisine whilst leaning on the issue of social transition.

Arin Rungjang, born in Thailand, is currently based in Bangkok. He graduated from Silpakorn University in 2001. Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch trained at the Berufsfachschule fuer Keramik Landshut and the Universitaet Gesamthochschule Kassel in Germany. He now lives and works in Ratchaburi, and has had solo exhibitions including ‘U.P.O.’ ARDEL’s Third Place Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand (2012) and ‘Design for Change’, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom (2007) among many others. The pavilion will be curated by Penwadee Nopaket Manon and Worathep Akabutr.

The Thailand Team

Artists: Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, Arin Rungjang

Commissioner: Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture

Curators: Penwadee Nophaket Manont, Worathep Akkabootara

Venue: Santa Croce 556

About The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale — 10 of them for the first time — and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch this space for our daily Venice Biennale updates or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

By Bethan Morgan