Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Navin's Party, the Yellows and the Reds

Just when you thought there is really no hope . . . and your hope descends deeper and deeper into the realms of darkness with the never ending bickering between the Reds and the Yellows with the former's excuse of freeing the "people" in order to literally "spill blood" . . . and just when the conflict of ideology and reality of gross inequalities comes to light and it becomes clear that the real victims are not acknowledged, along comes Navin's party.  

Navin and I

By all means an imaginary party but one which begs the question as to whether we could all get along as Navin under one party because a shared name (or Nevin or Nabin or whatever), if a party is just about a name or sharing something in common be it ideology or just benefit and questions the party system and politics as it is today.
Navin is an artistic phenomenon, he is a manic producer of work, definitely pop in the way it speaks to popular culture but satirical and challenging at the same time.  Just when one thinks "Where is Navin?" where did he go?  He comes along with his "Party" the culmination of 4 years of work which challenges and questions all those things perceived to be correct.  He collected all the Navins in the world and rest be content, there are many in different forms and renditions and formed his "party" - he then celebrated it with a New Orleans style party of balloons with the Korean "Nabin" stamped on them, gumbo, jambalaya rice and crayfish and multiple statues of his the Party Manifesto.  It was a installation for the senses where the Korean drama was replicated to show the essence of the Nabin (Korean for Navin) party, there was even a Bollywood film as part of his party's campaign, the party campaign.  
He challenges the idea of the party system and ideology altogether and really, can all these different ideologies exist under one name?
Perhaps yes, if that name is Navin . . . Is it not ludicrous really to believe and support if it is all in a name? or in Thailand's case a colour? What is it that we all believe in anyway? It is a satire of society and politics that humours, provokes and challenges.
The opening of his great ouevre was at Jean Michel's and Pasri Bunnag's private gallery . . .a beautiful glass structure with the must cutting edge and thought provoking collection of Thai contemporary art.  

I was particulsarly taken by this piece by Araya . . .Departure of Country Thai Girls. 
A paiting by Pinaree that can be seen in the background and another by Montien Boonmee recalling a mood and texture found in Arte Povera movement and in part of Sera but with a particularly Thai touch, this is after all a pagoda.

The grand dame herself, Pasri Bunnag is an inspiration to me as is the grand matriarch of Thai performance art, Patravadi.
Patravadi and Pasri

Khun Yai Pasri and I

A Thai, New Orleans big band played throughout the night as we drunk and talked art and the state of affairs - so litteraly, Navin's PARTY - as always, it was lovely to catch up with P'Harry, P'Brook, Malina, John, P'Eric, P'Kong and Khun Yai.  The new addition, I grew particularly fond of was Khun Kati Boonlontub. .the family's big labrador who's name means Coconut-Milk Under a lot of merit . . . he along with most of us perhaps oblivious as to what was or not at all, acknowledging that there is something wrong and the fate of our country is grey yet choosing to carry on.  

It is perhaps in times like these when the only solace we have is each other and art . . . after all, is that not what expression is about? An offering of an alternative reality and a capturing of a moment in time? 

At that time I never would have thought that the vicious bickering between the two sides and the vicious bloody-mindedness of one man would descend to a blood bath, voodoo rituals, the illegal gathering of information decontextualised to coerce and convince people that the government are out to harm them, the consequence being to incite, fear, hate and paranoia in the population.  I am at a loss of words to see with my own eyes how blood is not spilt out of "love" or in battle but drawn to throw away.  

It would be naive if not darn right ignorant to say all this does not effect us, the long standing effect being that there will always be doubt and never again can we be the land of smiles the tourist sites make us out to be.  Then again, Thais forget and business goes on but what will it take to erase this away . . . a paint job might not work this time.  It needs a change to a place where we do care about our fellow countrymen irrespective of ethnicity, wealth or class, it needs respect, and these things must be established before we can even talk about democracy. 

Thank you Navin for showing that art should care and anything less than a criticism of the way things are, a satire or an alternative is not good enough - not at this time.  Art is a language and in these troubled times, it should speak about it, to not, would be ignoring the realities.  It should inspire and challenge and it must enable the viewer to  engage and to empathise, how does it exist otherwise, an empty void lacks a purpose which is only just pretty but that in itself, beauty without substance is vacuous.  

To say, "I will do my thing irrespective of institutional support and I will express myself no matter what" is already a criticism of the status quo.  Thailand is innately a country of artists - it is now time that we care and form our own parties, our own thoughts and express ourselves, not at the expense of others but also to serve them. . .Sure it is political, and politics can be a pain but we must accept that we cannot escape it and therefore we have a responsibility and we can give effect to that in our own way, by doing what we do best . . .and that can be in the form of creating beautiful things.  

So, Hail and Hail Navin's Party and I'll be seeing you at Mahakarta.

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