Monday, 27 December 2010


Mahakad - Epic Arts in the Market is the brainchild of Navin Rawanchaikul, true to its title, the scale of the project was epic the subject matter being the community of the oldest market in Chiang Mai, Kad Luang or Wororot Market. Mahakad celebrates the centennial of the market and its community, a rich melting pot of different cultures that P Navin grew up in and this celebration, as a "son of the market" is a way for him to give back to the market of his youth. As an artist what he has created community-art or communal-art, for the public and community to enjoy. To kick off the celebrations, there were speeches, speeches and more speeches but as the opening reception was held at the charming Anusornsathron Residence, a beautiful compound from the Rama V era complete with grounds, garden and old Rover from the early 1900's, it was rather nice. The the ribbon cutting ceremony which officially opened the celebrations opened the doors to an exhibition of photographs taken by members of the Anusornsathorn family from the early days of Chiang Mai. An idyllic and pastoral of Chiang Mai, a past long gone.
Navin at podium
P Puoi and P Jeab
an old coupl

My Mahakad buddy was Doy, and after finding our own little corner to feast on northern market food we ventured into another room next to the photography exhibition. This one was mysterious with dim lights, a video, a large mural to the back and a glass case of old pictures in bottles. The video captures the personalities, the murals captures the community members both past and present and the triptych is completed with glass bottles in a glass case. The latter resemble coffins as old pictures of the market families' ancestors are preserved forever in the confines of the glass bottles. There is something disturbing about this, but at the same time deeply touching that we can preserve our ancestors within a glass frame so they can be a part of a community as it is today. Surreal and haunting yet juxtaposed with a black and white mural of personalities with oversized heads and the uber-real faces it felt complete and not sad.

Next up was a private tour by Navin and Uncle Preecha, a member of the Anusornsathorn family who is the photographer of many of the pictures of Chiang Mai we witnessed in the exhibition. The market and its vicinity was explained by Navin and Uncle Preecha, the old opium dens pointed out, the buildings that no longer exist in their old form now that they are 7-11.


We arrived at the market, might I mention that it is Christmas day so there were Santa Clauses galore and upon entering it, the first intervention/collaboration with the market is in full sight. Navin has blown up old photos taken by Uncle Preecha and hung them throughout the market, they are at once decorative and at the same time more than that as their size and placement throughout the narrow market lanes are engaging, you cannot help but look. It made for quite a sight, especially with the voice over and the music, P Navin said a collaboration between himself and the market.

Next stop after the market was the Philatelic Museum more commonly known as the Postal Museum. Here we see a collaboration with Dow Wasikiri and the market. It was fun, did not take itself too seriously as it compares the market of old with market of new but has a shot at social commentary and is too well composed to be just kitsch. Dow has a way of capturing a moment, I think that is called a good eye, especially for detail and the unexpected. It was humorous but at the same time subtle as he pokes fun at market folk as they were and what they are now. I loved how the moving cardboard cut outs and kitsch plastic backdrops make their way throughout the market and play a part in them.

Dow S.
the couple from the photography exhibition
P Navin, his dad and little Navin from the past

Doy and I were then adopted by P Jeab and P Puoi and we had the wonderful privilege of a preview of P Puoi's new art gallery/space. P Puoi has an art collection, not just any collection but a blue chip one which he started out of pure passion years ago. He is a collector in the true sense of the word, and like him, what he collects is warm, refined, in parts challenging, always beautiful and relevant. It is a well rounded collection of art and he has found a home for it in Chiang Mai, the space retains a sense of being in Chiang Mai and will provide a back drop to the Thai contemporary superstars and at the same time providing a contemporary setting fit for the likes of Sherman to Hirst to Neshat. I wish there were more P'Puoi's around. Next we went to the CM University Gallery - not a bad space, rather nice actually. There was once piece that I was drawn to this one . . .

I realised later that it was Araya's work, I always like her work. It is feminine and soft yet at the same time wretchedly tortured and complex shown int eh simplest, no nonsense form.

That night we chowed down on more market food at another Mahakad extravaganza where an alley was closed down for more celebrations, performances from children and traditional Lanna guys and girls and food food food. I was exhausted and t had to retire before the movie started only because it was Christmas and I could not not go to Northgate for x mas drinks. What an enjoyable night that was.

Next day was a trek with P Kong Rithdee, Jane, P'Ing and P'Manit from their Doi Suthep home up the doi to the temple. I imagined a little walk, it was not, it was an actual trek. I wore a white jumpsuit, it was wonderfully comfortable and I was able to move and we all decided that it worked for the purpose but really, white? The Boyy Oscar converts to a backpack THANK GOODNESS. Lunch of kao soi, chicken and sticky rice was blissful before we entered Temple Disneyland, apart from the temple there is nothing blissful about the temple, it was a circus and not a nice one. I am not sure how the ecclesiastical council allows little tribal girls in mini skirts to dance to blaring music in front of stupa. An oxymoron no?

P Ing and P Manit
Jane and P'Kong

The rest of the day was spent at P Ing's mountain retreat - that was blissful. I made friends with Hanuman, the puppy.

More Mahakad followed with a small closing party at the Hotel which is right next to the MASSIVE walking street. I made some new friends and was very happy to see Reinhart Frais again, another passionate collector not only of arts but textiles. A wonderful energy he has and his madras jacket was top! we went to the Moroom hotel, an artists-curated hotel with 12 rooms by 12 artists in accordance to the chinese star signs. I was obviously drawn to Rooster, weird that aesthetically I should be drawn to it right away. P'Rirkrit designed the Ox. The brainchild of this project is P'Mitr, an artist who Pier Luigi Tazzi refers to as one the 1st generation of Thai contemporary artists, they include Rirkrit, Navin, Surasi, Araya, so the big guys basically.

private dining room of Moroom, P'Mitr's paintings hanging

It sounds over designed but being in there it was not - it was a like James Bond Villain style with raw concrete and lovely details. Would be rather nice to have all 12 rooms to myself.

My night time venture on a scooter with Mandy meant that I was not fit to spend another day in the northern kingdom and returned to Bkk to rest. It is clear that the Christmas Weekend Getaway as P Navin called the Mahakad opening was action-packed and exciting and not just for a visitor like me as 500 store vendors and market community inhabitants showed up the next day (Sunday) whilst he was at the Mahakad symposium at his dad's fabric store asking to meet him. This was not to complain but rather to express their wonder and curiousity and meet the man who is celebrating their community and made art out of it.

Navin's way is energetic, it is fully charged and it requires interaction and a dialogue. This is his way of giving back and at the same time creating his works of art. The works created are to be collected and will be in the hands of his patrons and collectors, but in the meantime, from now till February, Chian Mai can enjoy the market and Navin's Mahakad. Without doubt, he showed that he is part of the community and this time, the coummunity whether they know it or not, are part of his work.

N.B. There are another five other sites with art throughout the market vicinity that I did not get to see, you get to stamp the little Mahakad map upon entering, it is like a scavenger hunt. Even the local police joined in . . .

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