Title: Public Art In(ter)vention
Year: 2006
Page: 208 (Softcover with DVD)
Publisher: Fly with Me to Another World Project

Related Exhibition/Project:

Public Art In(ter)vention

 

Public Art In(ter)vention is a collection of academic work from a symposium of which contributors ranged from art professionals to activists and NGO workers. This publication resulted from an international symposium of the same title that was organized as a conclusion to the Fly with Me to Another World (2003-05) project in Lamphun, Thailand. The project's purpose was to measure the extent of success in reaching out to the community with art. Through discussion, issues emerged pertaining to cultural geography, community, race, ethnicity, networking, and identity.

 

Such issues, which touch on questions of negotiation and confrontation, are common topics in contemporary politics. Hawaii-based Japanese-American artist Karen Keiko Kosasa's article discusses spatial contest in the history of Euro-American settlement in Hawaii, which entailed the appropriation of land from native Hawaiians and its redesignation for tourism purposes. The overlap between private and public spheres engenders a contest for space that is political in nature. Inherent to the use of space are the political forces of domination and control. Thus, the tension between private and public spheres leads us to the question: When art is used as a form of public intervention, what is invented? In a world where the distinction between destruction and creation is tenuous, invention may not always prove necessary. Merely proposing an alternative against that which we deem ordinary can constitute a type of invention. Using art to encourage communal contribution presents one way that art may be simultaneously inventive and derivative.

 

In 'When Art Intervenes, Is The Public Invented?' Pandit Chanrochanakit brings the issue of communication between artists and the public to the fore. Such communication results in public understanding and response to contemporary arts through public engagement. Pandit discusses intervention and invention in fusing art and everyday life. He talks about social sculpture, the approach that inspired the Chiang Mai Social Installation in the 1990s. Pandit views visual culture as possessing the power to construct cultural representations which reveal acts of oppression. He mentions Fred Wilson's work presented at the 50th Venice Biennale as an example. As a political scientist, Pandit criticizes the power to construct national imagination and argues that Thai society permits material development to exist and continue while tolerance for criticism is muted. Pandit deconstructs Navin's work, The Journey, which was presented at the 1st Chiang Mai Social Installation illustrating the 'contemporary' sensibility with regards to tools of social control - that which, in Foucauldian terms, one might call 'governmentality'. He further uses the concept of governmentality as the basis for his criticism of national imagination, in its way of privileging continuity over disruption. He uses Fly with Me to Another World as an example of how disruption can support a wider discourse on the imaginary aspects of community and solidarity.

 

The conversation between two leading Asian curators, Gridthiya Gaweewong and Ong Keng Sen, about paving the way for alternative spaces in the 1990s and the quest for funding by forming networks with resources from developed countries reflects the fact that art projects still function as an education platform or a social tool. Running an art project is, hence, about the search for support, the catching of trends in funding and the weaving of networks. This invokes a critical question: is the search for funding and networking a real emancipation, or is it just another means of domination?

 

The preface co-written by Navin and assistant editor Thanavi Chotpradit, as well as the article, 'Anything is art - but can art be everything?' by Thanavi herself, serves as hors d'oeuvres before main courses. They provide the basis for the evolution of art in Thailand - from royal to contemporary art. It also reflects on problems of communicating with society and confronting contemporary art which cannot settle down and grow up. This book ends off with 'Public Space in Transformation: An Aspect of Strategic Model of Public Art Practice In Asia' by Hong Kong based art writer Andrew Lam Honkin who discusses strategies used in art projects that engage the public. At the end of the book is supplemented a synopsis from panel discussion with a DVD presenting an hour-long project documentary on activities throughout Fly with Me to Another World project. A remarkable argument here is to which extent artists have rights and freedom to intervene or engage art with the public.

 

In the end, internationally renowned British curator Jonathan Watkins summed things up best with his question: 'If everybody is an artist and if art can be everything and there is all this blurring, do we need it anymore? Can we do these things and not to refer to them as art?' Artists, Watkins asserts don't have a monopoly on creativity. And that seems to have been the general conclusion of the symposium from which this book evolved.

 

Words: Worathep Akkabootara

Published in Navin's Sala

 





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