At The Art Center, Office of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University
On Display: August 25–October 15, 2016
On Thursday, August 25, 2016
Artist Talk: 5:00–6:30 p.m.
Opening Reception: 6:45–8:30 p.m.
While travelling around Thailand I took to photographing the landscapes that I encountered in between the places I was visiting. It’s a raw mixture of development that blurs the difference between town and country. I don’t make judgments about what it looks like. Instead I linger quizzically at scenes we tend to glance by without noticing. Through these photographs I want to ponder the tastes and lifestyles that have led Thai society to change our landscape in this way.
‘Building in the Moment: Dow’s Landscapes of Thailand’
Essay by Philip Cornwel-Smith
Thailand beguiles the eye with natural wonders and refined tradition. In between, the unfiltered clutter of roadside Thailand gets dismissed as chaos, but rewards a closer look. Dow Wasiksiri journeyed through the country’s landscape with his camera, encountering what Thais do to their surroundings. This series of images records how scenery and modernity collide.
Thailand has developed ad hoc. This could be called ‘building in the moment’ – not preserving the past intact, nor planning an integrated future, but catering to immediate needs. Each mismatched element reveals an attempt to improve life, to earn a living, to upgrade a home, to civilise the wild, to brighten-up utilities. The result is no longer rural, not quite urban. There are no longer city limits, just unrelieved peri-urban sprawl.
Casual intrusions turn the Thai landscape uneasy. Dow’s images show the effect on peri-urban space; man-made structures feel stranded, even lonely, yet dominate the surrounding vista. The scattered manner of construction makes both nature and architecture look out of place. Airplanes park on runways next to buffalos wallowing in mud. Trees and sky pale beside shophouses painted in Technicolor green and blue.
Thais are proud of their development, and seem not to notice or to mind when it favours function over aesthetics. In the pristine landscape of times past, traditional teak buildings had an aesthetic unity, with their pointed gables, natural hues and hand-hewn timbers. Today’s plasticky trim spoils that romanticised postcard image, whether an inkjet banner on a temple, or the wiring that tangles every streetscape. The knots of cables display Thailand’s electrification, but being modern now means hiding not showing the cables. Advertising covers whole buildings, turning the homeland into a sales pitch – except when unsold blank hoardings question that lifestyle dream.
Now industrial textures intrude upon every panorama, and the land has been sculpted by terraforming. Even reminders of rustic Thailand can feel artificial, like the potted plants behind a plastic barrier, gingerbread tracery on the petrol station, or a herd of concrete deer grazing on a traffic island.
Modest in scale and ambition, these quiet intrusions add up. Together they change Thailand’s character. It’s like how piercings, tattoos or facelifts modify someone’s appearance bit by bit, chancing on how it might look decades later. Dow’s photographic encounters hold a mirror to the Thailand that Thais have incrementally chosen.
The Art Center
7th Floor, Office of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University
Phyathai Rd, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 02-218-2965, Fax: 02-218-2907
Facebook: The Art Center – Chula
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Closed on Sunday & Public Holidays