11 July 2024

Out of the darkness and into the light

Awakening Bangkok has returned to the City of Angels to brighten up the city’s darkest time. Part adventure, part amazement, the installation lures art buffs into dark and winding alleys, thenastonishes them with pieces of light art and astounding venues.

In Bangkok’s historical district of Charoen Krung and the Talad Noi neighbourhood, more than 25 local and international light artists and designers are brightening up the dark winter nights with light art in Awakening Bangkok 2020.

Following on from the two earlier successful editions in 2018 and 2019, the Awakening Bangkok 2020 has adopted a “RE/WIND/FAST/FORWARD” theme in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has seen many people locked down in their homes for the best part of a year.

The pandemic has put us through hard times in 2020, but we will move forward together. The Re/Wind/Fast/Forward exhibition will shedsome light on our darkest hours and lead us to the end of the tunnel,” says Pongsiri Hetrakul, executive director of Time Out Bangkok and festival director of Awakening Bangkok 2020.

Art exhibition Thailand

“Stranger Playlist” by Sanischaya & Oktay/Photo by Phoowadon Duangmee

Time Out Bangkok magazine has organised thisannual light art installation exhibition since 2018and this year it is running from December 11 to 20.

More than 30 works of art are now on display at the Grand Postal Building, Marine Police Lodge, Warehouse 30, Si Phraya Pier and other cultural and commercial landmarks along Charoen Krung Road and the Talad Noi marketplace.

Just follow the lights in the dark alleys and enjoy your discoveries

The exhibition covers the full range of emotions from humour to puzzlement at seeing a splat of light on the floor in the spooky “Raining As Usual” installed in a time-worn Chinese shophouse.

Thailand Arts

“Raining As Usual” by YEAST/Photo by Chusri Ngamprasert

At the Marine Police Lodge, opposite the Embassy of France in Soi Charoen Krung 36, the light artists from BGC Glass Studio present the “Light Up the City” exhibition in the historical house. Here, you will find sculptures of human ears displayed in the middle of the dimly-lit room. At first sight, you have no idea what to do with the exhibition until someone makes a noise. Then, you find out that noise can technically “speak” to the light.

“Light Up the City” by BGC Glass Studio/Photo by Phoowadon Duangmee

We installed some vibration sensors in the art work. When you make a noise, any kind of noise, the light will respond in a different way. The louder the noise, the brighter it shines,” says the light artist at the Marine Police Lodge.So try to make different kinds of noise. Whisper or scream, and find out how light will be transformed.”

Don’t hesitate to get creative when you visit the exhibition. Recite (or sing) Luciano Pavarotti’s “Ave Maria”, for example, or scream Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power – and see how yourvoice is translated into light.

Other light installations take you back to the good old days.

At Darunbannalai Children’s Library, Sanischata & OKTAY have created the “Stranger Playlistusing old cassette tape brimming with light and a cassette tape rewinding effect.

“Many of us have gone through difficult timesand felt uncomfortable with the new normal during the pandemic. How wonderful it would be if we could hit the rewind button, just like with an old cassette player, and enjoy the good, pre-pandemic moments,” says Sanischaya M., a light designer who moved from America to Thailand after the pandemic.

Most of the time, however, you will find that the art venue is the destination in itself.

Follow the light through the winding alleys of the Talad Noi neighbourhood, and you will be enticed by a secret restaurant and Chinese courtyard. So Heng Tai mansion is graceful by day but visit this nineteenth-century mansion (Bt50/person) during the light art exhibition, and you’re mesmerized by the light and shadow that give the historic courtyard a mystical beauty.

There are also several works guaranteed to boggle the mind such as Cedric Arnold’s “Fragment” work at Patina Bangkok. The photo journalist-turnedlight artist blows your mindtrying to explain man’s memories and consciousness through a photographic illustration.

“Fragment” by Cedric Arnold/Photo by Chusri Ngamprasert

But the best part of Awakening Bangkok 2020 is that the light art installation is playful. Viewers can turn the installation into their own show by playing around with lights and shadows.

At Patina Bangkok, the lighting designers from the Whoop turn a boxy, dull-looking, old-fashioned overhead projector into an art form.  Inside the spectacular old shophouse, they have set up the analog overhead projector with the beam aimed at the wall and invite viewersto play with pigments on transparent tray. As the participant splashes of pigment on the overhead projector, the others can see the old, scratched wall gradually morphing into a spectacular display of light and colour.

“We are familiar with an overhead projector. It’s a teacher’s best friend since it helps putting texts on a screen. But people probably don’t realise that the overhead projector can also be a head turner when the right thing is placed on top of it,” says a female artist from the Whoop, explaining how she works with the “Nostalgia Mapping” light installation.

Visitors are invited to play around with “Nostalgia Mapping” by Whoop/Photo by Phoowadon Duangmee

For a complete list of light art installations, visitthe Time Out Bangkok website (www.timeout.com/bangkok). The exhibition is free of charge, save for the “Crab Tale” at So Heng Tai historic mansion (Bt50/person).