Dispatch from Thailand: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook in conversation with David Willis

28 February 2020


I first met Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook during the run of her exhibition at 100 Tonson Gallery in Bangkok in 2018, An Artist Is Trying to Return To Being A Writer. The show foregrounded her dual identity as a writer and an artist, and the tension between the two practices. By David Willis

While within Thailand she is perhaps better known for her work as an author, internationally she is renowned for her work as a conceptual artist, having participated in prestigious events such as the Venice Biennale in 2005, and dOCUMENTA in 2012.

Moving fluidly between performance, video, sculpture and installation, she has consistently dealt with the theme of death in her art, most famously in her video-performance works where she read Thai epic poetry and delivered art lectures to corpses at the Chiang Mai morgue, in works such as Reading for Corpses (2002) and The Class (2005). She is also an ardent dog lover, having adopted more than thirty stray dogs over the years, one of which she brought to Kassel for her dOCUMENTA project, in which she and the stray lived in a cabin for the duration of the exhibition, monitoring a live camera feed of her other dogs being fed and cared for by her assistant back in Thailand.

Late last year, she launched Put her to sleep, save us and ours, a website with the subtitle “Necessity’s Rhythm Araya’s exchange life-art project (call for participants and donations).” Featuring cryptic passages of English text interspersed with images of her past performances and adopted canines, it outlines her honest desire to be euthanized, while also raising money to support shelters for stray cats and dogs. Intrigued, I met with Araya at her home and studio on the outskirts of Chiang Mai in January, where we discussed her new “life-art project” while peeling oranges and petting her favorite adoptee, a french bulldog mix, who whined for attention and nuzzled at our feet.

David Willis (Degree Critical): In the section of your website titled “Project Dream,” you write that you want to enact a re-balancing between a variety of opposing concepts: mind and body, abstract and physical, imagination and logic, life and art objects, ethical concerns and the preoccupation with mere things. It sounds as if you are trying to get away from the business of making art objects, but at the same time, you have an upcoming show at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in New York. Have you produced new artworks to show in that exhibition?

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook: Yes, I worry that we are much too concerned with material things, but as you can imagine, it is almost impossible to sell this kind of immaterial project, so I still cannot escape the demands of society for more objects. So, as a compromise, my new work incorporates text from the website, and text from my most recent novel, as a way of talking about my intention for the dilution of being. In my show at Tyler Rollins, there will be small, colorful text pieces with quotes from the website, as well as larger artworks made with text from my last novel, with all the editor’s notes included, to show the messiness of life, instead of a perfect, finished object.

Read more: https://artwriting.sva.edu/journal/post/dispatch-from-thailand-araya-rasdjarmrearnsook-in-conversation-with-david-willis

SOURCE: Art Writing MFA (www.artwriting.sva.edu)

Image courtesy: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook


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