Pavilion COOP @ Bangkok Biennial 2018
The following interview emerged out of a Skype conversation with Lee Anantawat, (Speedy Grandma, Bangkok Biennial, Poop Press) based in Bangkok, Muriel Meyer (curator, studied at Städelschule Frankfurt) in Kiel and Antonie Angerer (curator I: project space) in Beijing.
Lee in her studio.
Muriel’s video is still loading.
Antonie: The Bangkok Biennial was set up as a challenge to the ‘authority’ of institutionalized access to representation in art and curatorial practices. In an effort to decentralize, the Bangkok Biennial did not have one central curator or dispersion of resources. It was planned as an ‘open-access’ event. Lee could you talk about what the Bangkok Biennial responds to and how it was organized?
Lee: Currently three Biennials exist in Thailand. The first one is our Bangkok Biennial, the second one is the Bangkok Art Biennial, which will happen in the end of October, and the third one the Thailand Biennial. Bangkok Art Biennial is sponsored by Thailand political authority and ThaiBev. It is very commercial and top down.
We on the other hand are self-organized. We find the contemporary experimenting approach more relevant in the current economic-socio-political climate. Everyone is taking care of their own projects. The Bangkok Biennial provides PR and creates a guidebook with all participating projects. When it comes to the funding, posters and guidebooks are sponsored by a little printer that has been supporting the Thai art scene for a long time, and international projects were supported by selling art works. For the future we want to help the projects even more to find their own funding. The Bangkok Biennial catalogue we are currently working on will have two parts. One part is about the concept of each pavilion and the second part is looking at each pavilion’s funding and economical set up.
Antonie: During the Bangkok Biennial you curated the Pavillon COOP as an aesthetic, practical and analytic effort to deepen the understanding of various layers of collaborative work. The exhibition was a response to the concept of the Bangkok Biennial. How did you develop the idea of COOP?
Muriel: After having a conversation with Lee about the Bangkok Biennial, I immediately understood that it was about collaboration and that this concept should also be reflected in the exhibition concept. I developed the project on this basis and invited artists to get into different models of collaboration. From the beginning it was about breaking the top down model. I wanted the artists to be equal and curate it with me. In my practice, curating happens in conversation with the artists. Interestingly, there came a point where artists wanted me to be more of a leading curator. This negotiation of my role became a very exciting part of the exhibition. In the context of it happening in Bangkok, I realized that in the Asian art scene people were very welcoming about the idea of a more collective approach. Although this concept is also being more and more discussed in Europe and the US, it is not as established here.
Antonie: You were curator and collaborator on Lars Karl Becker’s piece. How did you cooperate on It Is Gotterdämmerung Time?
Muriel: Lars did a similar project before as a DJ. Someone writes a critique, which he then responds to. It Is Gotterdämmerung Time followed a similar approach. I wrote a critique, and Lars created the artwork in COOP as a response to it. The idea of the project is based on an evening when Lars and I saw these Afghan carpets in a private collector’s house. Lars was fascinated by them. Based on his fascination of these carpets I wrote a critique, in which I incorporated current uses of carpets in the contemporary art discourse, the trendiness of it, its political meaning etc.. I wrote a detailed description of the setup of the artwork, how it responded to Lars’ s practice and my analysis of it. I did not expect Lars to stick to it in such detail. Lars created his work after a deep analysis of my critique and reproduced it in the exhibition. In the process of creating the artwork, I think he hated and loved it at the same time sometimes.
Antonie: On COOP’s website, you say you aimed to explore the crossing paths between mechanisms of the system, personal interests and solidarity artistically with this exhibition. What kind of insights did you get from this experience?
Muriel: The Bangkok Biennial itself is a comment and insight into these questions. Like Lee said, there is not only one sponsor, who could control certain aspects. Every exhibition has its own resources. COOP’s supporters were very split up into different parties, so we did not feel obliged to a single one. We didn’t have rules. We were free in developing the content.
As for the content of the exhibition, every selected artist in our exhibition dealt with neoliberal critique in their works in one way or the other. COOP collected different points of views, some are very layered and complicated. It was very interesting to show it in Thailand and to see how people read them differently. There was an extreme openness to talk about the questions raised.
I had this feeling Lee described, that there is this co-working atmosphere in Bangkok. I believe this is against the neoliberal structure of commercial spaces, but instead you get invited, because someone wants to support you.
Lee: Since we never get support from anyone, we rely much more on each other in whatever ways possible. This is basically the idea and the way things are happening here. You look at what you want to do, and then ask yourself and your community how we can do that. I actually just realized that as well.
Antonie: How do you develop the Bangkok Biennial for the next edition? Anything you are planning to do differently?
Lee: My personal opinion is that the second edition we still follow this model. But I have been thinking a lot about the exhibition idea, and if it is the best format to talk about what is happening in Thailand. I want to try to develop this idea more, also in regards to my own art space Speedy Grandma. But for now, I am working on the catalogue for the first edition. When that is done I will think about the next edition.
Thank you Antonie Angerer
1st July – 2nd September 2018
‚3rd fl, 469 Phrasumen Rd. Bowonniwet Phranakorn Bangkok‘
Lars Karl Becker, Kitsum Cheng, Nicholas Hoffman, Daniela Kneip Velescu, Valentina Knežević, Ofri Lapid, Cheonghye Sophia Lee, Jieun Lim, Alice Peragine, Nadia Perlov, Sathit Sattarasart, Daniel Stubenvoll, Nolico Taki
Curated by Muriel Meyer
Unchalee Anantawat, Director of Speedy Grandma, Bangkok
Goethe-Institute Thailand, Bangkok Japan Foundation, Bangkok Freundeskreis Städelschule Portikus e. V.
COOP is an aesthetic, practical and analytic effort to deepen the understanding of various layers of collaborative work. In economic terms cooperation enables individuals to work together to achieve common business goals. Our aim is to explore the crossing paths between mechanisms of the system, personal interests and solidarity artistically. We are aware of the fact that we collaborate constantly within the current system – as being part of the so-called ‘soft powers’. It is often assumed that visual arts thrive on the celebration of individuals. Society empowers the individual – the artist – to express him or herself. But in fact, art can also be considered as one of the most collaborative forms of interaction. Each art work incorporates several influences: style, appropriated ideas or knowledge, labor or craftwork by other people, reflections of collaborative structures, materials from various origins, in the end to be joined by interpretation and seen by others as a visual form of communication.
On the occasion of coop, we would like to search for modes of resisting mere individualistic expressions and rather focus on fostering collaborations. Some of the invited artists work together for the first time, while other artists continue their collaborative work. As a pavilion of the very first Bangkok Biennial 2018 coop reflects the participatory structure of this Biennial.