Curating Nation | Travelling Without Moving: Thai Contemporary Art Historicised

Arin Rungjang, Art as space for politics without space, 2010.
Synthetic carpets; dimensions variable. Installation view at
Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Courtesy the artist.

Date: 20 April 2012, Friday
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: NUS Museum
Admission free. To register email or call 6516 8817 / 8429
Despite entrenched problems with its arts sector and years of political meltdown, Thailand manages to put more than its share of mercurial performers on the global contemporary art stage. A first generation achieved international visibility in the 1990s, amidst the crystallization of the 'contemporary' in Southeast Asia, and the region's discovery by the wider art world. Thai artists emerging more recently have tended to bypass this regional scene; and their work is marked in particular by a lack of national symbolic identifiers. Have Thai artists really shaken off the spectre of nation? Have they abandoned the pursuit of 'Thainess', or will it one day catch up with them? For all its global visibility, the study of Thai art lags badly. We have not seen a scholarly monograph on the subject since Apinan's groundbreaking Modern Art in Thailand, published some 20 years ago. This lecture puts recent developments into historical perspective, locating the pre-history of Thai contemporary art in the institutional foundations of an earlier national modernity, and tracing the relationship between art and the state since.

David Teh works at the National University of Singapore, in the fields of critical theory and visual culture. His research centres on contemporary art in Southeast Asia. From 2005-09, he was an independent critic and curator based in Bangkok. His recent projects have included The More Things Change… (5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, 2008); Unreal Asia (55. Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Germany, 2009); Itineraries: 3 Young Contemporaries (VWFA, Kuala Lumpur, 2011); and Video Vortex #7 (Yogyakarta, 2011). David's writings have appeared in Art Asia Pacific, LEAP Magazine, Art & Australia, C-Arts, Broadsheet, Eyeline and The Bangkok Post. His recent essay on Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul was published in Third Text; another, on Indonesian collective ruangrupa, will appear soon in Afterall; the present lecture is based on a piece published last year in Aan Journal (Bangkok).

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