11 July 2024

Art can’t solve problems the world is facing but leading artists showcasing their works at the Bangkok Art Biennale 2022 (BAB2022) are positive that works of art could be a significant tool for change as they inspire and help create dialogue.

“Art is the weapon to stop evil and artists are the people sacrificing themselves to wage a war against evil,” said veteran artist Vasan Sittiket during a symposium at BAB2022.

The all-round Thai artist is showcasing his “Inferno” series at BAB2022 on the 8th floor of Bangkok Art and Cultural Center, which features such famous faces as Putin, Donald Trump, Gandhi and “God” in satirical and thought-provoking ways.

He said when he was a child, he thought that an artist could paint the entire world and make it beautiful. “But I now realise, it is not enough. We have to communicate with other people.”
Thailand-based German-born artist Jan Kath also communicates through his art on rugs and textiles. His work is like a commentary on social problems as he touches upon armed violence in the United States and refugees fleeing their native lands. One of his rug pieces entitled “Ice People” portrays the journey of refugees. “My grandparents are among people in the art as they were refugees from former Eastern Germany in 1945,” he said.

Jan Kath talks about his rugs at the BAB2022 Symposium.

A representative from the Chiang Mai-based  “Art for Air” group at the BAB2022 symposium shared similar thoughts. “Art for Air” acts as a liaison between artists, creative workers and academics, helping them to create exhibitions offering varied perspectives regarding air pollution and global warming issues. The artworks, he said, would not directly solve the environmental problem but they do promote communication, making the subject a common topic so that it encourages people to participate and bring a collective spirit towards solving the issues.

Artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert said that the real meaning of  “Art for Air” was not creating artwork alone because the group’s aim is to drive for change. “For me, every person is an artist who can help create a better world.”

The artworks from the “Art for Air” artists are on display on the 9th floor of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center (BACC) at BAB2022. They illustrate the problems in various dimensions and in ways that touch upon the theme of this major art festival, “CHAOS: CALM”. Opening at the weekend, this 3rd edition of BAB was the first wide-ranging event since the pandemic disrupted almost every aspect of life.

Performance Art by Pitchapa Wangprasertkul. (Photo By Veena Thoopkrajae)

Besides the outbreak, Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda thinks the theme fits the politics, economic downturn and social upheavals taking place around the globe with a number of Thai and international artists voicing a common view that chaos and calm are not separate but interconnected. “There’s chaos in calmness and vice versa,” they said.

Sometimes the calmness underlines anger, anxiety or depression. Take Pitchapa Wangprasertkul’s “The Standard” as an example. The performance artist sits in a cage on the 9th floor of BACC with her notebook computer and necessities like drinking water. “The Standard” urges people to question “standard conditions” that people may accept as a norm.

“My work portrays the life of a Thai, especially an office person. Our lives reflect a certain standard such as space of our apartment, a salary or minimum wage, working hours, sleeping time and if you are to succeed, you’ve got to do this and that blah blah blah… And everyone seems to be okay with this. So, it inspired me to come up with this performance.

“I may appear calm and I am very passive (in the performance) but trust me, it is not calmness as it appears. Many people said they felt the anger inside me.”

She said that she didn’t pick up chaos or calm for her work as she’d rather pick a situation where the two conditions coexist.

Artworks fro Art for Air Group on display at BAB2022. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

BAB2022 at a glance

  • BAB runs for four months from October 22, 2022, to February 23, 2023.
  • 73 of the participating artists are Thai and the rest represent 30 countries including Brazil, France, France, Japan, Mongolia and Serbia.
  • Artworks are on display at 12 venues in the Thai capital including temples, shopping malls, galleries, a conference hall and a museum. For details, go to bkkartbiennale.com

By Veena Thoopkrajae