Rosanna Albertini about KORAKRIT ARUNANONDCHAIs installation

Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving



 U-topia? Non-space? Not at all. Korakrit is from Bangkok, now he lives in New York. He is as young as a heron, he found the way to survive and make art in the marsh, the unsteady ground stamped by the hallmark of our uncharitable lack of moral strength or hope for a future. The price he pays, is a “peculiar sense of contingency” and a fragile sense of beauty threatened from every side, first of all from the visitors’ frequent, almost inevitable misunderstandings: “What a wonderful experience!” “That’s a simple metaphor, a ritual of purification.” No blame on anybody, for these are reasonable reactions of humans attached to reasonable expectations.

The strength of this art piece is emotional and symbolic. My heart bumped when I entered the first time and again when I reentered the Mistake Room space. A pleasure fed by fear. It was like standing on a tree pulled up by the roots, no ground, no sky. A fountain, hands offering a bar of soap, transparent, translucent. A collection of hybrids: mirrors that are changeable paintings, a passage between two groups of mannequins all alike: a patrol of white statues, and projections that are reflections of a personal journey from confusion-isolation to clarity to social smile and applause. The mare of the night was galloping in my ears.



Disquieting space. Darkness is the poetic touch. We all become shadows to one another as we look at our backs, because we all turn when instructions are given and still we see the back silhouettes of those who are walking out. The only magic light is on hands offering the soap. Yes, it sounds banal. Who’s afraid of banality? Watching TV, reading papers, phones, screens, we multiply illusionary thoughts: seeing is not understanding. History we live in is invisible. The past is out of reach. Therefore we really see nothing. I’m sure the artist found in himself some winding existential feelings to build his goal of cleaning his own soul as a message for other humans.

Is there the “white elephant” behind his obsession with white? In Thailand white elephants, chang phueak, are sacred animals, they can’t be used for work, they are also called chang samkhan, “auspicious elephants.”

So he replaced the arrogance of tradition and intellectual foundations with “the open-eared attentiveness of the child: expanses; solitude; being led; letting reason grow out of things and into man; a more universal, more conciliatory, but less precise mode of thought in place of ethical-activist brusqueness.”*





Letters to Chantri #1The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving

The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, CA 2014

Photos: Peter Kirby

The moment we enter his territory we can’t avoid cringing. With the best intentions, Korakrit has made his message as messages are made today by the long hand of the market: formally perfect images of eternal youth. Apparently they correspond so perfectly to the rules and meanings that different societies, in the east and the west, have already accepted and digested, that one doesn’t even feel the need to think about them. They are a ‘natural representation’ good for everyone. Except, they are exactly what the mercantile wisdom has discovered and spread beyond control. Here the artist walks on a shaky bridge: he embraces the aesthetic of “a special form of violence shockingly flexible, highly developed, and creative in many respects,”** the aesthetic of capitalism. But he also offers the gift that keeps on giving, to expand his desire of simple, clean human connections.

It might be the other side of time, a chapel maybe, or a raft in the ocean. I like better to think of Korakrit riding a white elephant, while adjusting the glasses on his nose. On this side of time, I would be grateful for his auspices.

*and ** ROBERT MUSIL, Essays, 1918-1933