Jennie Guy

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From Curator to Curator

An interview with Pier Luigi Tazzi included in the exhibition catalogue for Nim Kruasaeng and a friend presented at Stone Gallery in Dublin, September 2008.

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Jennie Guy: Pier Luigi, I have worked with Nim Kruasaeng and Mit Jai-Inn respectively; with Nim on the Woman 2500-2005 exhibition at the Haripunchai National Museum and with Mit when he and three other artists made a presentation on the land at the Palais de Tokyo for the exhibition “Tropical Nights – Lost in Paradise.”

By presenting these two artists for the Stone Gallery in Dublin there might be an assumption made that this is a Thai art show. In my mind this is not an absolute, although it would be foolish to negate the influence of their respective cultures on their artistic practices. I think it’s important to note that whilst Nim holds a Thai passport for example, she is in fact a self-taught artist from Isan Province, which borders Laos. Her dialect and cultural provenance is therefore totally different from Mit who comes from Chiang Mai and has attended fine art schools in Thailand and Europe. As the curator how can I navigate this situation with an aim of providing a meaningful context for the exhibition Nim Kruaseang and a friend?

Piere Luigi Tazzi: I think that Nim and Mit are very different from each other. As artists, on one hand, Mit since long refuses to be defined as such, and, on the other hand, Nim also is a very particular kind of artist according to the current definition of this role. In other terms, Mit calls himself out of the art world while for Nim it is hard to say that she belongs to it at the present status of things. For these reasons it is difficult to acknowledge any similarities or comparisons between them. Their reciprocal diversity is something that marks the present day situation of the Thai art scene, where there are as many nuances as there are in the sexual definitions between female and male in its people.

If Nim belongs to the Isan community, and expresses its culture, Mit belongs to the Nyong one, even if he doesn’t care to express its culture. Thailand presents so many variations even in ethnic terms that it is hard to define what Thai means and is. Thus it is neither their presumed shared thainess that make them to approach each other, nor the different process of education they respectively followed.

Nim’s oeuvre is based on a continuous process of translation or transfer from her sensual and spiritual experiences into visual forms.

Mit’s actions, including his paintings, sculptures, statements and public appearances, are a theoretical and spiritual approach to the being of art, whose values and modes are constantly challenged by him.

To put them together in one project is as improper as adventurous.

JG: There will be twelve paintings by Nim and only one sculptural piece by Mit on exhibit in the Stone Gallery. While this may seem like a lopsided representation of the two artists it makes intuitive sense to me as a curator. Granted Mit is the older brother in their relationship as artists. Since her initial acknowledgment by Montien Boonma in the early 1990s and her emergence in the international art world it seems that Nim’s work has always been nurtured by established artists such as Rirkrit Tiravanja, Kamin Lerchpraisert and of course by Mit Jai-Inn. Could it be that the inclusion of a solo work by Mit is almost like a lucky charm for Nim? It’s true that Mit’s work often can be seen as more than art.

PLT: I like the idea – I don’t know about the actual results – of putting together twelve paintings by Nim and a three-dimensional piece by Mit. But one must consider that Nim’s works are art pieces rightly disposed within an exhibition, where Mit’s piece is more a commentary, an intrusion, a deaf spot, a motive of disturbance, a persona non grata in itself, “come un cane in chiesa” as Italians are used to say.

JG: Having had the experience of working with Mit, what seems like a chaotic and rebellious way of working often emerges as visionary. In particular I’m referring to his work with the Chiang Mai Social Installation which some might say was an early days precursor to the land which was initially set up by Rirkrit and Kamin. His recent show in Ver Gallery, Bangkok (Don’t be Happy. Do be Worried) is testimony to his role as being a provoker and an instigator of thought. Coincidentally James Lee Byars is an artist who has recently come to my attention, any time I research his work a parallel with Mit’s practice comes to mind. My question to you comes from a personal curiosity but might remain rhetorical in this dialogue. How can an artist who denies to be named on exhibition invites and who refuses to call his oil on canvas ‘paintings’ or his three dimensional work ‘sculpture’ function in the art world at large? By denying his work to materialise or to be named it’s as if his creativity is caught in an ephemeral world and that the objects produced are almost a bi-product of his belief systems.

PLT: In fact he doesn’t at all. His dis-functionality is his glory. His negativity is his pragmatism and his passion.

James Lee Byars, who was a great friend of mine, was in the art world. Mit is like a meteorite ready to hit the art planet and extinguish some species of dinosaurs, if not the whole bunch. Lizards must not to be afraid: they will survive.

JG: Pier-Luigi you have been accustomed to Nim’s painting for some time now. On first glance the larger works for the show at the Stone are very silent, calm and strong works. The ten smaller ones are more playful but this same sense of the artist’s inner strength within and the images she leaves floating is still present. Can you help me explain this observation?

PLT: In this last couple of years I not only got accustomed to Nim’s works, but also to the Isan country, its landscape and, mostly, its people. I think that the main difference between her early works and the new and larger ones is due by the fact that at the beginning she was mostly reacting to the existing gap between her native culture and the urban context of the big city, Bangkok, where she had moved. Such a contrast produced a tension that made her early works uncanny in spite of their apparent playfulness. The more recent and larger works reflect a more relaxed status and a renewed closeness to her origins. It is like she is back there, in her unforgotten country, the timeless Isan unblemished by the frictions and contradictions of the present, getting to a peaceful ancient basic substance that is “the salt of the earth”. And when a certain kind of playfulness stays, it is the effect of the Isan humour, their innocent mode of life enjoyment.


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