Landscape and a Man Who Eats the Sun
An exhibition by Chai Siri.
Venue: VER Gallery.
Opening Reception: 22 October 2017 from 18:30 onwards.
The exhibition will be on view from 22 October – 2 December 2017.
**On opening night from 19:30 onwards, Thanachai Ujjin and Chalat Limpisiri will be performing live.
“Landscape and a Man Who Eats the Sun” is an exploration of the forbidden land. A land in which one is lost in time, unable to identify whether it is the past, the present, or the future. A land where inhabitants cannot determine whether they coexist together within the same realm and dimension. It is a land yet to be explored, awaiting visitors. Through various elements:
Night Light of Big City,
Nang Ta Nee Ghost Forest,
War Zones Along the River,
The Mountains and Seas in the Sky,
Love and Sickness, and
Demon and Human,
Chai Siri expresses these strange dreams through various landscapes in his show.
VER Gallery is delighted to invite all of you for an exploration of the mystical land. Please join us for an in-depth observation of reality and fiction. The memories are expressed through various mediums, ranging from photography, video installation, sound installation, sculpture, and short film. These eight pieces of works had been made by Chai Siri over a period of 10 years.
A conversation about the show by Chai and Apichatpong
25 September 2017
Chai: Landscape and a Man Who Eats the Sun is a collection of works produced over the past ten years, from 2007 to 2017.
Apichatpong: So it is a greatest hits collection. Reminds me of the past, of your previous shows. It feels rather strange as each of the pieces requires a large space for exhibition, like the whole floor of a hotel or a large hall for the banana plants. Bringing these pieces together gives them a new notion. You revised some of the pieces too, right? For example, the use of the movie script with the photographs of your mother whose name is the same as one of the characters in the fictional novel. What was your intention behind this?
Chai: It’s an ongoing project that I had been working on in the past four to five years. I was intrigued by relating personal history to issues in the society as well as the issues that I’m interested in. I used my mother as a representation because I remembered a story she once told me about the time when she was younger. She was so beautiful that a movie director tried to convince her to be in his film but her mother forbade her from becoming an actress. My mother said that without us three children, she might have been a famous actress by now. The story of her life is fascinating. During the Burmese Revolution, she crossed the river to the Thai border with my grandparents. So I created a character called Rena to establish the connection between the various aspects that I want to address in different dimensions: politics, love and relationships, animism, and border areas. Over these past four to five years, the project had become more of a research for a movie script about the people living along the Thailand-Myanmar border and a study of gender.
Apichatpong: This exhibition is a combination of the recording of real stories and fiction. What became apparent to me is that even the process of documenting is itself can be interpreted as fiction, like all the events that were made up in order to create the idea of a nation. In the end, I think to live is to create narratives. This brings us to the very question of what the truth is. We all exist in the world of fiction. We interact, both in the public and private spheres, with an identity we shaped for ourselves and an identity molded by society. At this point, I think the piece on the homeless (Sanam Luang, 2007) is very interesting because it gives a platform to a group that lacks opportunities and has been marginalized by society. It allows them to express their own narratives in a place that holds the memory of the nation state and where official ceremonies are held, Sanam Luang.
Chai: When I was working on it, I did not see it as art. Back then I was interning with an NGO called Issarachon Foundation that works with homeless people living in Sanam Luang. I was interested in the expression and the storing of memories and the definition of home. So I kept bringing them disposable cameras when I was working with this organization. I told them they could take photos of anything.
Apichatpong: Why are banana plants significant to you?
Chai: It’s an image that has stuck with me since I was a child. When I was very young, I woke up at 5AM to help my grandpa water the plants in his garden. There were a lot of banana plants there and I was very afraid of ghosts when I was a child. In all the Thai horror films that I watched on video tapes with my brothers, ghosts were always associated with banana plants. The town I grew up in did not have any cinema. In the winter we had an outdoor cinema screening in the field at the back of my house. I could watch it from my bedroom window. They liked to show horror movies too, so it’s something that is stuck in my memory, in real life, in video tapes, and in celluloid films. The landscapes of reality and the cinematic landscapes overlap.
Apichatpong: The idea behind this exhibition, I think, starts from a personal space, extends into the public space, and returns to the personal again. I see that besides the idea of landscapes, it is about the use of the physical body in the creation of each piece. It’s a relationship between journey and growth, like the use of the mother’s body, the artist’s, the nature’s. I watched the two color videos that switch back and forth and think it is a human being inhaling and exhaling. It’s calm and chaotic at the same time, like the feelings we have while meditating. Breathing is a sign of life, but at the same time, there are dead banana plants lying on the ground.
The upside down landscape stands for the sense of ambiguity cast over this whole exhibition. It’s also tragic. It is as if there is something pushing down, the shifting of mass in nature, the mountains turned into rain clouds that are about to fall, but it has to withhold the tears—the rain—from falling.
Chai: Another reason why I chose to do this piece was that I like Hokusai, and it was a good excuse to travel. I went to the locations where he created his works over a hundred years ago. I was like a groupie of our time, going to the shooting locations of a favorite movie director. However, I wanted to initiate a dialogue with the master who I admire, so I created a narrative to explain that when I visited the locations that Hokusai used as reference for his sketches, all those spaces, the mountains, the sea, the ground, the sky, they’re all upside down.
Apichatpong: That is why I felt that this video is like a two-dimensional dialogue, just like the paintings. While the two-toned video piece shot at Mae Rim has elements of truth—the discussion about the house that actually existed and was concrete and tangible, the works on Hokusai have an element of art, just like an artist’s dream. At the same time the exhibition shows a multitude of dreams layering on top of one another.
This show at VER Gallery is called Landscape and a Man Who Eats the Sun. I want to know why you want to taste the sun.
Chai: Because it’s hot. The good thing about art is that we can find ways to express things that we can’t usually say to the public for whatever reasons. Some people want to avoid touching hot objects because they are afraid of danger. But when I see things that I can’t or am prohibited from touching, I find them really tempting. I can’t help but seek the opportunity to feel it.