Cristina NualART

Tag: Relational Art

Thai Artists

There’s nothing like a good dose of culture shock to creativize one’s zest for life. Around the time of the great tsunami, I lived in Thailand for a couple of tropical years and I have consequently developed a soft-spot for the place, as you do for any place you call home – especially if it has cha yen and abundant frangipani.

Regular visits to Bangkok’s galleries and museums were pretty dichotomous: exhibitions of run-of-the-mill, nepotistic hi-so paintings or facile images of buddhas were interspersed with epiphanic journeys to fascinating new artists. Obviously, I adore the frescos of Ramakien stories in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, but there was lots of exciting contemporary art too. I discovered Montien Boonma (thank you!) and couldn’t understand why I’d never come across his sculptures in New York, London, Barcelona or any other famous-for-art city. They are mind-blowing! I guess you have to be in the right place at the right time, and let art own you when it wants to.

I laughed at the Pink Man, and will die adoring Manit Sriwanichpoom‘s totally unbarbiefied use of pink (sorry Schiaparelli, he wins…). Yuree Kensaku is another one to watch. Her small picture below, ‘The Battle of Love’ (2005) is on a 3D support, and is a fantastic mix of luminous and metallic paints with heavily textured, alla-prima oil.

I can’t remember all the names of many other Thai artists that rocked my artosphere, but do read the links on this post, there’s a whole lot to enjoy. Off the elite art world radar there were plenty of other joyous manifestations of visual savoir-faire. From Chalit’s art workshops for children, to the best T-shirt designs in the world (usually combining hilarious world play with unusual craft-collage). Fun stuff.

This month’s Art in America, ironically subtitled Europe Focus, has a special on Thai artists which is a must-read and has great pictures!

My favourite BKK gallery is 100 Tonson, which in August 2010 is offering something pretty special. They’re setting up the first solo show of Rirkrit Tiravanija in his homeland! Yep, that’s the guy made famous by Relational Art and all of that come-dine-with-me before chillaxing in Chiang Mai kinda art…


P.S.: Artist and Economy professor Hans Abbing says that ‘in contemporary Thailand … the artist’s identity hardly matters’ (Why Artists are Poor, 2002). He adduces no reasons for this statement, which I can’t agree with. Maybe the rationale has something to do with the differences in the individual ego versus group ego that Asia and the West are said to be at odds with? If there is truth in this insight, perhaps that helps explain why I had trouble finding individual websites for the artists I mention. There are many reason why artists would have a page on an art portal rather than their own website of course (see my Artexposure research on this), it could also be that all of the Internet that is not written in Roman script is barred to little ingnarmus me… I can’t read Thai characters. Just the art!

Chan shorb silapin Thai!

Today I gave my heartbeat to an artist…

Cross Hyde Park facing East, get to the Serpentine Gallery, see no red (as you arrive from the West). Encounter a make-shift white box. Enter. Participate. Collaborate. Remember. Take your heart back home with you. Forget.84_RedSerpentine_photocnualart

A long way ago, entertaining the young son of my friend the nurse, I found a stethoscope amongst the pile of children’s toys. I slipped in the earpieces and put the disc on my chest, then nearly fell backwards at the loud thudding noise of my own heart.This was before MP3s and in-ear buds. Walkmans with flimsy sponge headphones didn’t cancel noise and turn you inwards like that stethoscope did.

Hearing my hearbeat was an uncanny experience. For the first time in my life, I experienced the knowledge that I was real and solid, but machine-like in my fragility. Hearing the workings of my own body, the symmetry of my blood transmissions, I gaped in awe at the miracle of life. I was not just an outside shell with airy thoughts in the head and bones to hold me up, I was full of thick, juicy, rich cogs and wheels, running up and down and palpitating in sync. I learned that peripheral vision can work inwards as well as laterally. The thudding sound in the stethoscope was me: nothing else but that rhythmic, all-exterminating noise. Wow. One of my many epiphanies…

Christian Boltanki’s hearbeat recording booth for his Les Archives du Coeur project arrives in London from Monumenta Paris. It’s beautiful in concept, but collides with my current ponderings on data-gathering. I want to hoard and store all paintings, books, photos, documents, etc., but I wrestle with the futility of it – there is a destruction of time in revisiting lived experiences, which makes archiving a pretty egotistical pursuit. Reading Art, Time and Technology (Charlie Gere, 2006) this week I found this message: ‘Andreas Huyssen suggests that one response to the ever-greater ubiquity of real-time systems is an increasing interest in memory. (…) The more memory we store on data banks, the more the past is sucked into the orbit of the present, ready to be called upon the screen.’

After that, Wolfgang Tillmans‘ photographs (the artist as curator) and Jean Nouvel’s red pavillion (glowing) were less moving than they might have been without my flashbacks.


Art colonises me

Artur Zmijewski on how he perceives his role as stage-manager of his own filmed participatory workshop:

‘the situation is that the art catches up with me, it tells a story, colonises me, says “this is art”. I am an artist because I operate in the field of art. That’s where I’m most active and most fulfilled; that’s where I’ve been given a place to speak from and that’s from where I’m heard. So if I was to say why this is art, I’d say it’s precisely because it catches up with me, claiming what I do.’

Double Agent, curated by Claire Bishop and Mark Sladen, 2008, ICA, London, catalogue p. 101

Eco art

Currently, Madrid’s Casa de America presents a group exhibition of Spanish and Latin American artists, Mientras sea posible’. The brief is not one I’ve come across elsewhere: to show humankind’s adaptability and potential for change. This topic has been explored in many a new media/digital art exhibition, but here the focus is on natural materials and homeostasis: the tendency to equilibrium between interdependent elements, in particular that of the body, or even the earth, as a unified organism.

Transforming the environment is something all of us who live in cities forget about, because the built cityscape shows change less dramatically than sites in transition from a rural to a more urbanised status. This exhibition offers no reflections on the loss of natural landscape, however, but enough on that can be found in any publication by Greenpeace España.

The questions asked by the curator have been interpreted with more references to local mythology and traditions than I would have expected, and I enjoyed that surprise.

This is Chilean artist Catalina Bauer’s contemporary rendition of quipu, an Andean accounting system. I am fascinated by how many knowledge systems exist that most Westerners like myself never hear about. It makes me question dominant paradigms, and the increasing spread of them. Will the minority ones become extinct, or preserved as a token, like older languages that carry a culture but have little use since they are only used by bilingual people who communicate mostly in their ‘stronger’ tongue? Either way, the artist is pointing to what is on the other side. It is up to us to glimpse through the grass curtain, and discover an alternative paradigm or a message on the inside vs. the outside.

Argentinian artist Ana Gallardo uses a Mexican tradition as a source of inspiration for her installation. The religious rituals of pilgrims to Oaxaca’s Virgen de Juquila are re-enacted by visitors to this space. Viewers, like pilgrims, may give material form to their wishes, out of mud, and leave them en route to the sanctuary, which is here reduced in size so it looks like a room-sized train-set. Because of the miniature landscape feel, it bears similarities with Jake and Dinos Chapman’s now defunct Hell, but made by a younger sibling. Gallardo asks us to make a wish for our own old age, so a resonance of proximity to death is inferred too. However, this is a home-made and interactive kind of artwork which grants hope, and sees people united in good will rather than a bloodbath. Believer or not, making mudcakes is a pastime that kept me happy for hours as a child, and I therefore wholeheartedly recommend it. Even if your wishes don’t come true, it will do you good.

Catalina León is another Argetinian artist, whose curtains of fallen and falling leaves give no indication of their origin or intention. By way of an artist statement, Catalina says only: ‘May nothing trouble you, may nothing frighten you, everything passes’. Such buddhist-style wisdom fits in well with the calm beauty of the piece, but leaves you wondering if you are indeed feeling cheated out of a deep theory for the artwork. Of course I had enjoyed in the work of the other artists learning about legends and stories new to me, here I get no such education. But the cascading sheets of leaf-shaped blankets filling the space with a warm foresty smell, carefully made of hand-stitched leaves, provoke plenty of imaginings of tribal crafts and the cloak of nature to keep one satisfied.

Activist Art in a Vacuum

Mr Vacuum Cleaner is around London these days, exhibiting, performing, managing, and all that. So I joined a like-minded group of art-consumers to play anti-consumerist war games in a shopping centre for a day.  In groups, we faced challenges such as finding out the average age of the makers of the clothes in Gap Kids. Answer: do you think they would tell us? Even HQ could not find out! We reckon it’s about 12.

Attempting to discover the ingredients of a Macdonald’s milkshake was even more mission impossible – macstaff can’t even see the ingredients on the packing for the ready-made beverage – there are none printed. I personally thought that not listing the ingredients was illegal, (let alone worrying…) but my food law cognisance is low in research. Starbucks staff were more open to learning about their carbon impact, and although they knew how many daily transactions the shop made, they did not have figures for how many disposable cups were used. However, they were willing to know, if you can do the counting… We did not question how many litres of water may have been wasted. You’ve heard the stories about our rivers going down Starbucks drains. Check out waterwise to find out how much water our coffee really costs.

The tasks were not all about numbers, though. We found out that New Look’s window manequins are shaped like Barbie dolls (i.e. unreal!), that running up escalators the wrong way can be an alternative to paying gym membership, and that the Disney store seems to have bought up all Chinese toy factories.


carbonbuyer_photocnualartOnce the questions were answered (or not, as PR departments saw fit) and the give-me-fives clapped, we took a break for networking and respite, before rehearsing for the grand finale: a secret rendez-vous back in the shopping mall, singing (very loud and a capella)  protest songs for the amusement of shoppers and the horror of security guards. With our cover blown, our spirits high and our mission accomplished, we scuttered off, surveilled (I mean extra-surveilled) by plastic police, and returned to our business as usual.


Sutra and Antony Gormley

32_SutraSadler’s Wells theatre is always a full house. Never more deservedly than with Sutra. A most visual spectacle, it is absolutely thrilling! I was completely enthralled by it. It left me reeling and amazed at human ingenuity.

What I can’t quite work out is how a visual artist, Antony Gormley, designs the set for something like this. I can understand that a sculptor would have all the skills needed to make 100 different shapes out of blocks of wood. But it takes a good stretch of the imagination to get the boxes to become all the landscapes that I interpreted during the show. The set, to a large extent, IS the performance, in Sutra. The objects (visual art) and the martial artist are united in motion, and one without the other would not work. This is, I guess, a great example of a hybrid partnership, in this case, of a visual artist with choreographers, performers and musicians. Team work and inter-disciplinary collaborations are all the rage in business, science and art in these times of Relational Aesthetics. Sutra shows what a successful mix of creative skills can produce. I love it!


Antony Gormley is someone I have liked since he put up ‘the little man’ bronze sculpture in front of Birmingham’s Art Gallery. I was young at the time, but I think there must have been some controversy when the metal man was half buried in this public square, because I remember the affectionate comments made by my relatives in the Midlands. Maybe it was my nan’s delight at the sculpture, or maybe I just thought it looked like a toy, but when I saw it, I was charmed. The Angel of the North is on my long list of things to see…

I did have the privilege, lucky girl, of seeing Antony Gormley’s exhibition in the Hayward Gallery in 2007. What a show! It did for me what Sutra does – fills you with awe and ideas and energy and joy! The Hayward show drew in crowds to experience Blind Light, and while that was an incredible otherwordly experience, it was the hanging metal sculptures of fragmented men – the negative space and the space between our molecules – that wowed me. Phewh… Art has its moments.


Collective cyanotyping

Zoë Burt is exhibiting the fascinating results of her residence at the Brockwell Lido last summer, now on show at 198@45 gallery, in Brixton market.ZoeBurt_cyanotypes_photocnualart

This weekend she was doing workshops on the cyanotype process, where in Blue Peter style, you could make your own cyanotype easily – no chemicals required. It’s like a photogram, but cyan blue. On textured paper, it looks very similar to a gum bichromate image, painterly but uncannily ‘real’.

Passers-by enjoyed choosing objects to place on the ready-prepared light sensitive paper, before sliding into an ultraviolet light box. Just like an oven, 10 minutes and out it comes, ready to be ‘developed’. A matching (it’s all in the detail) row of buckets outside were used to wash away the chemical residue. The morning cyanotypes were drying on racks. So simple, and so effective! I was there for an hour and the constant flow of people coming in and participating, cramming in the small space, showed how successful the event was. That means that probably dozens, if not hundreds more of your average citizens now know what a cyanotype is. For further info, the gallery’s handout explains that the process was invented in 1842 by an astronomer! Remember that next time you do a pub quiz…



Unless otherwise specified, text and images © 2017 Cristina Nualart

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Welcome to my little home on the world wide digital jungle. Previous versions of this site, with different designs and URLs, have existed since 2002.
You'll be delighted -even surprised- that this site does not brainwash you with advertising, bake cookies or spy on your digital data.
This site is also low in bullshit (excuse my colourful language...) due to a personal aversion to it.

Back to top