Thai installation artist Surasi Kulsowong promises Good News at Para/Site Hong Kong – review

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

THAI ARTIST SHOW REVIEW

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, as new curator for the well-regarded Hong Kong non-profit Para/Site art space, explained his mission for the space in January 2009 to Claire Morin for Time Out:

“I want to refocus Para/Site … with more artists from Asia,” he says. “I also want Para/Site to become a social space, a space where things are actually happening, not just exhibited… I want the public to appropriate Para/Site and become a part of Para/Site.”

Since then he has made firm headway. In January 2009, to the amuseument and confusion of locals, the eccentric Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, aka Bread Man, was guided around Hong Kong’s Graham Street market with baguettes wrapped around his head. This performance was followed by a rendition of his Finger Dolls piece inspired by his relationship with his supportive but now aged Mother (click here Tatsumi Orimoto review and video clips).

With his latest show, Fominaya has initiated an even more bemusing and irresistible experience for neighbourhood residents. In his first solo show in Hong Kong, Thai artist Surasi Kulsowong presents a site-specific show which seems to lie somewhere at the intersection between an exhibition, an experience and a grand game.

According to the publicity material the gallery is transformed into a playground by being filled

with five tons of thread waste into which a gold necklace with the Chinese word for ‘Fortune’ is hidden each week and made available to lucky members of the audience who find it.

When we visit, the feather-soft cotton waste laid out thicker than a mattress looks so inviting that we do not waste a minute in kicking off our shoes and wading into it. Not only pleasurable as a sensual experience, the show tickles the intellect with its playful turning-upside-down of the usual notions of money, gold, waste and value.

We are invited to consider whether waste products might have more value than first meets the eye. We are teased into questioning the meaning of value which, in this show, extends beyond measurable monetary value to include sensory stimulation, new experiences, social connection and plenty of laughter.

When we visit the show we see a young child who rolls around giggling on her back while her Filipino nanny chuckles and rummages on her hands and knees. The previous week the hidden gold was discovered by an elderly gentleman who is a patient in the neighbouring hospital. He came in his pyjamas with his nurse and told the staff that he planned to give the gold to his daughter. 

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Good News is Coming

Alluring to a group of people far beyond seasoned gallery-goers, the show is full of wonder, fun and reward.  Yes  “it  can be appreciated on many levels” confirms Fominaya as he shows us some of the wall-hung images made to accompany the show.

In one, a Fortune magazine cover is recreated and a headline “Good News is Coming”, from another financial article, is appropriated and pasted onto it. What does this mean? On one level, the artist is providing us with a message which, like the cotton under our feet, is soothing and playful. But on another we are roused to consider the extent to which we accept the content and power of the media messages we are exposed to.

Kulsowong’s installation is inspired by the gloom of the global recession which he aims to counter with messages of hope and experiences of  happiness. Leaving with soothed soles and a smile, we take away much more than that. The Fortune cover and the heap of textile waste prod us with powerful questions about what we can do to create our own messages of hope.

Surasi Kulsowong

Surasi Kulsowong

The exhibition is accompanied by a specially conceived art edition called Good News is Coming (With Warhol’s Flowers), 2009, the proceeds of which will fund Para/Site’s activities. Contact Para/Site to buy.

Artist details

Surasi Kulsowong was born in 1965 in Ayutthaya. He lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is best known for his One Dollar Markets in which the artist, inspired by Asian floating markets, creates a market within an art space to reflect on the nature of consumer society and expand the meaning of the art space.

He has exhibited internationally with solo shows in Tate Modern and Palais de Tokyo. He has participated in the Gwangju Biennial, 50th Venice Biennale, 2nd Guangzhou Triennial, amongst others.

Related links:

Frieze review 2004 of  work 10SEK  – the writer notes the disarming way that Kulsowong cuts through social reserve by playing with money as a notion and a physical object.

New York Times review 2001 – looks at how Surasi uses space in his installation in Chelsea at his New York debut

Culturebase article – more details about his market artworks

Para/Site website

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