Professor Jiang Jiehong of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts curated the biannual Thailand Biennale (2018), a national art project designed to showcase the natural beauty of Krabi province, engage directly with local communities and highlight important environmental concerns. The 2018 pieces were collected under the theme Edge of Wonderland, re-imagining ancient mythologies from myriad cultures via contemporary art. The exhibition led to increased community engagement and highlighted Krabi province.
- Prof. Jiang Jiehong
- Dr Jonathan Watkins
- Federica Mirra
Assistant Curators Dr Vipash Purichanont and Dr Vichaya Mukdamanee
The Thailand Biennale in Krabi was a joint venture between Professor Jiang Jiehong and the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture Thailand. From a Thai perspective, the government wished to create an event to boost cultural tourism in the country. As such, it was decided to hold a biennale of contemporary art every two years in Thailand, with each exhibition located in a different province to reflect the nation’s diversity. Professor Jiang Jiehong was selected as the inaugural curator. The exhibition was staged outdoors to showcase the natural beauty of Krabi, engage directly with local communities and highlight important environmental concerns.
The exhibition theme was entitled ‘The Edge of Wonderland’, conjuring up notions of mythology and borderlands. The exhibition aimed to re-imagine ancient mythologies from myriad cultures via contemporary art. Moreover, the concept of the ‘edge’ related to boundaries, directly reflecting upon Krabi’s location as a stand-alone island off the main coast of Thailand. Consequently, a wide range of artistic responses was elicited, encompassing the edge between reality and fiction, the existent and the imagined, the material and the spiritual, the experienced and the unworldly, and ultimately, the known and the unknown.
From November 2017 to February 2018, the curatorial team and OCAC conducted three site-visit trips to Krabi, involving, initially, more than seventy artists in total. All the works in this Biennale are newly proposed and site-specifically developed, based on the fieldwork research. The First Thailand Biennale presents more than 50 artists (groups), including 48 artists from 25 countries and areas worldwide, 2 emerging artists selected by the Jury Panel through the Artist Open Call and 4 Thailand’s National Artists recommended by OCAC.
Results and outcomes
A bilingual English-Thai catalogue accompanied the exhibition. Several important works were commissioned for the biennale, reacting to the site-specificity of Krabi. Many pieces were the product of fruitful community engagement.
Sound artist Félix Blume’s Rumours from the sea comprised a jetty encircled by Bamboo Flutes, highlighting the problem of coastal erosion. In Coming Community, Valentina Karga collaborated with local businesses, taxi drivers and Ramadan musicians to produce four ceramic pillars made solely from local materials to promote the importance of alternative energy. In To be or not to be, Yang Zhenzhong planted trees upside down in a straight line to subvert their natural growth, prompting reflection upon our relationship with nature. In Letter, Rikuo Ueda created an installation in memory of his wife who had passed away. The natural force of the wind would propel a pen to write her a postcard. In Did you leave your island?, AK Dolven reflects upon the multiplicity of cultural identity by inviting viewers into a house where voices speak in Thai, English and Norwegian.