The Thai artist is shaking up Bangkok’s train line by replacing all advertisements with works of his own.
Art Radar takes a look at Kamin Lertchaiprasert’s latest art project on the Bangkok Metro system.
Thai artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert (b. 1964, Lop Buri, Thailand)’s motivation for embarking on an ambitious art installation, now showing on the BTS Skytrain, reads:
Something is missing in Thai society, in the content of all the advertisements I see. There is a lack of humanity, a lack of value for our roots. It’s gone.
Lertchaiprasert was first approached about this project in December 2016 by Pranitan “Pete” Phornprapha, co-founder of Thai arts, music and environmental festival Wonderfruit. Lertchaiprasert and Phornprapha developed the idea of creating a moving art installation that would reach the Thai community in an accessible, free and easy manner. Wrapping the interior and exterior of the Skytrain in geometric patterns, dinosaurs and other graphic elements, the 53-year-old artist created Thailand’s mobile art installation Universal Connections (Spiritual Fractal).
With the potential to reach a million people in a day, Phornprapha stated that the BTS Skytrain was a strong platform for communicating with the Thai public. The decorated Skytrain, which plies the BTS Sukhumvit and Silom lines, will continue to carry his art installation until the first week of August 2017.
Speaking about his chosen designs, Lertchaiprasert noted that he wanted to
present an idea that will continue our internal spirit. With the concept of ‘fractal’, which is geometric. It is the structure of all living things, of everything in nature, in this universe, in this realm.
Noting that society faced a lack of humanity in these contemporary times, Lertchaiprasert’s black-and-white designs feature imagery such as the yin-yang symbol, universes dotted with stars, and oversized hearts on the exterior of the carriage.
The artist makes such spiritual concerns the forefront of his artistic practice. A committed Buddhist, Lertchaiprasert sees art as a meditative and ritualistic practice. Exploring ideas of spirituality, the value and meaning of life, as well as the relationship between men and the universe, Lertchaiprasert has developed a coherent artistic practice that often raises thought-provoking questions not unlike those found in this BTS Skytrain project. By creating graphic designs that would evoke the ideas of continuity, spirituality and our place in the world, Lertchaiprasert hopes to replace the meaninglessness of advertising with imagery that will inspire or provoke deeper thoughts about the way we live our lives. By replacing invasive and spiritually-depleting advertising with uplifting and inspiring graphics, Lertchaiprasert hopes to make commuting more meaningful.
With his deep fixation on the present moment, Lertchaiprasert’s desire to drive the message home to the Thai community was the main driving factor propelling his involvement in the BTS Skyline project. Although the duo received help from the BTS, they also began crowdfunding on Asiola, a crowdfunding platform. Within months, the project managed to raise 2.6 million Thai baht.
Rewards, however, including specially designed shirts, a miniature model of the decorated Skytrain, as well as other graphic drawings by Lertchaiprasert are still available for redemption on the Asiola crowdfunding platform.
He is the creator of several well-known pieces of work, most notably, Sitting (Money), which was acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2013. Comprised of 366 papier mâché figures, one for each day of the year, Lertchaiprasert has placed the figures in a variety of everyday positions, as though they were carrying on with their daily activities. Made up of decommissioned Bank of Thailand notes that were previously slated for recycling, these figures reference the folk craft of Thailand, reflecting a tension between more traditional values and the contemporary pressures of everyday life.
More notably, Lertchaiprasert’s retrospective, “The Timeless Present Moment” was recently held at MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Drawing on two distinct periods of his artistic practice, the exhibition revealed a broad view of his explorations, encompassing painting, photography, pottery and sculpture. Exploring the notion of the present moment as a bridge between past and present, notable works included Nothing Special (2014-2015), an installation featuring 364 raku tea bowls arranged in an oblong.
Lertchaiprasert is also the co-founder of the Land Foundation, alongside fellow artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, which focuses on converting rice fields into a destination for site-specific art and architectural projects, residencies and workshops. Lertchaiprasert also established the 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit in 2008, after participating in the “Stimulating Cities with Art” symposium at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. Lertchaiprasert has also mounted solo exhibitions at Numthong Gallery, Bangkok, and the Art U-Room, Tokyo. His work has been included in the Biennale of Sydney (1993 and 2012); the 2nd Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia (1996), the Venice Biennale (2003), the Busan Biennale, South Korea (2008); Guangzhou Triennial, China (2011), as well as in exhibitions by the Singapore Art Museum.
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