The Original Shell, 2010

Installation / video / Photograph / screening

1 video, 1 short film and 24 photographs installation

From the beginning of 2008, a number of odd-looking structural developments have sprouted up in my neighborhood. They amount to four large units, resembling a cross between a house and a building, constructed entirely of corrugated iron. Neon lights of the night shine on these edifices, reflecting off of their exteriors, giving the impression that they would readily take off and soar into the Milky Way.

A union of under-development and a light fragrance of sci-fi films, the peculiarity of the architecture was further enhanced by its inhabitants. At dawn, as if on cue, these residents would exit their dwellings, each and every one of which donned themselves in identical long-sleeved orange shirts, surrounding their homes like an invasion of extraterrestrial beings. Hundreds of these bright orange shirts walked out of the entrance, some riding in pickup trucks, eventually evaporating to some unknown destination, only returning at the day’s end, lighting up their abode and breathing life into their dwelling place.

Curiosity and a deep interest led me to peer beyond the surrounding enclosure, where I discovered a miniature metropolis, bustling with life. Each night, there were mothers taking their children to buy sweets from a convenience store, located within the building; young men starting up their motorcycles, waiting for their girls, to go out for the evening; while those without partners huddled together, singing songs, and drinking long into the night. An inexplicable energy drew me in to discover the tales of these mysterious beings.

Not long after, I learned that these people were migrant construction workers who had been brought here to build a new branch of a luxurious hotel located a short distance from where we were situated. I had been traveling past both their homes and their work place, on a daily basis, for a year now. They reminded me of a certain species of birds, beautiful in sight and in sound, to which people have often compared with those who have drifted far from their homeland.

“Oh branching flowering buds, oh sprouting scattering blossoms, oh egg-shell Oriole, where will you sleep tonight?”

The chorus of an ancient folk song starts whirring in my mind when I see these people. Having strayed so far from their homes, a sanctuary for preserving our souls and our imagination, may have eroded the wholeness of their emotional development. This knowledge caused me to wonder what it was that helped to heal these people from the long and seemingly endless journey. Could it be the sound of music that played each night after a hard day’s work? Or the hope that swelled and surged within those who waited back in the places these people had traveled from?

Thus began my confusion concerning the nesting place we refer to as home. Does the meaning behind the name truly suffice, or, is a home actually only an emotion? Home remains warm and welcoming in our minds. The act of opening the door and entering becomes as simple as opening a portal and transporting ourselves back into our mothers’ wombs, escaping our present surroundings and situations. Even if our actual homes have long since expired, we recreate it, erecting it from different emotions that we have deeply embedded within these barricades. We make use of the past, as a tool for pacifying the present, in the same manner that these construction workers tell their tales to me through the sensual songs of their native tongue. The North-Eastern (Isaan) songs, with an accent that elaborates on the enjoyments derived from nature, work, and love, revolve around a home that seems so distant and leaves me wondering about the reality of the stories behind each stanza.