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Farang, 2010

Above: Farang installation view details, Curtin University. Photos Jessie Mitchell.

Above: Portrait as Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest/ Maae sud ti rak) (2010) Neon sign. Single-channel video with sound, 14:30 looped. Neon text 1000 x 570mm. Installation dimensions variable. Photo Casey Ayres.

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Above: Stills from Portrait as Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest/ Maae sud ti rak)

Above: Lakhon portrait (After New Wongsakorn as Nohk Khun Thaawng) (2010) Digital photographic print. 841 x 1189mm. Photograph by Ana Palacios.

Above: Portrait as New Wongsakorn as Nohk Khoon Thaawng (Hill Myna) (2010) Neon sign. Single-channel video with sound, 10:30 looped. Neon text 1000 x 420mm. Installation dimensions variable. Photo Casey Ayres.

Above: Stills from Portrait as New Wongsakorn as Nohk Khoon Thaawng (Hill Myna)

Above: Khwampentai (Khun Yai/Grandmother) (2010) Gold leaf, graphite and watercolour on paper. 570 x 770mm.

Above: Khwampentai (Khun Maae/Mother) (2010) Gold leaf, graphite and watercolour on paper. 570 x 770mm.

Above: Khwampentai (Phee Chai/Brother) (2010) Gold leaf, graphite and watercolour on paper. 570 x 770mm.

Above: Untitled (Khun Yai) (2010) 108 watercolour paintings on paper, pine, MDF.  Paintings 210 x 297mm each. Side panels of frame 1600 x 2200mm each. Centre panel 1800 x 2200mm. Installation dimensions variable. Photo Casey Ayres.

Above: Details of panels from Untitled (Khun Yai) Photos Casey Ayres.

Above: Untitled (Shrine) (2010) Plaster, gold leaf, acrylic gouache, pine, MDF, candles, incense, found objects. Two-channel video with sound, 2:30 looped. Installation dimensions variable. Photo Casey Ayres.

Above: Details of Untitled (Shrine) Photos Jessie Mitchell.

Above: Video stills from two-channel video. The process of blessing the installation is juxtaposed with stock footage of the shrines around my mother’s house I am replicating with these casts, and also documentary footage of my mother painting the watercolours of my mother. There are 108 portraits as a direct relation to the number of temptations that must be overcome in Buddhist philosophy before reaching enlightenment.

Farang

The impetus for this installation of artworks was a simple premise, to use my mother as a collaborator and subject in a series of works that would allow me to investigate her Thai heritage. This would lead me to interrogate questions of my own cultural heritage and produce works that self-reflexively refer to this cycle of investigation.

The title of the project, Farang, is a term in Thai denoting a white outsider, and could be read as both a description of myself and of the intended audience for the work. Being half Thai, working with a displaced Thai native and instigating such a project within the context of a Western art institution affords a unique perspective in this project. The body of work that eventuates ultimately seeks to interrogate my cultural roots within an institutional context, one imbricated within the grand narrative of globalization.

Farang is a project engaged with the processes of autoethnography – working from within a perspective of defining my unique cultural situation through an arts practice that engages in the politics of representing Thai culture in a Westernised, Eurocentric art context. ‘Double consciousness’, a term described by civil rights theorist W.E.B. Dubois, describes the act of being both Western and non-Western at the same time, a term accurately describing the ethos of the project.

Sensitive installation of aggregate bodies of seemingly disparate works is an important outcome for the Farang. The project finds agency through gestures of repetition and mimicry. Contrasting forms, miscommunications, and incongruity establish dialogues between series of works, conversations implicitly alluding to the collaborative process that generates this artistic activity. References are personal and esoteric, yet languaged and supported through universal frameworks. Their installation privileges both the personal, autobiographical elements of the project, as well as the implying the urgency of its overarching theoretical and cultural narratives within a contemporary Australian society sensitive to the influences of multiculturalism and globalism.

-Nathan Beard, 2010

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