KAB Dialogue


July 13, 2015 UP

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook: NIRANAM / The Nameless

Dialogue in Monologue

The Thai video artist and photographer Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook held her first solo exhibition in Japan at Kyoto Art Center from mid-May to mid-June, the time of year in Kyoto when the humid summer is just beginning. Rasdjarmrearnsook is based in the old Thai capital of Chiang Mai and she previously stayed in Kyoto for a one-month residency organized by Kyoto Art Center and Kyoto City University of Arts during the same season in 2014, when she shot films and photographs for the exhibition. These then became the materials for six new artworks, which were exhibited at four places in the venue. In the exhibition NIRANAM: The Nameless, meandering, ephemeral memories of animals and people in Kyoto quietly appear to the viewer, from the elderly with dementia to stray dogs, the homeless, and the retired. Artist Toru Koyamada met and became friends with Rasdjarmrearnsook during her residency in Kyoto, and here he discusses her exhibition and qualities as an artist.


Installation view, “Invitation to no one: an opening ceremony with no guests, but only a ghost” Two-screen video installation, 2015 Photographed by Yuki Moriya

What kind of work do you do? Why do you do that? Where? What do you like? What’s hard? Where do you like to go? Again, why? She asked me many things. But I didn’t mind. I would talk, bit by bit, about my work. And even when the answers were uncertain, somehow I felt glad and enriched, like the vague responses were also complex dialogues. This was typical of her.

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook came to classes every week at the hut I made with students at Kyoto City University of Arts, where I work. The Thai artist from Chiang Mai spoke to students individually, generously asking each of them all kinds of questions. With her long, shaggy gray hair and otherworldly graceful movements, friendly eyes and smile, Araya cut a mysterious figure. Encouraged by her, students who rarely speak started to talk about themselves and were brought into long group discussions. The dialogue did not become heated, yet the debate was deep. No, it wasn’t debate, but a deep something. In fact, the students cannot speak English so fluently and conversed almost entirely through an interpreter, and yet for some reason or other they all felt like they were engaging in a deep dialogue with her. It was the same for me as well. When I first met Araya, I told her about my French bulldog that had died recently and she told me how she also has the same breed of dog (she actually has 15 dogs), and we could connect through our mutual sad and happy memories. From that moment it was like we were old friends. And when they met again a year later, as if their emotional links were deeply memorized, the students were able to start talking with her at the exhibition almost like no time had passed at all.


Installation view, “It is too easy to sell and buy life: stray dogs. Too many to care for.” Glass bottles・stray dogs’ hair・candy・sticky paper・inkjet print, 2015 Photographed by Yuki Moriya

Why was a relationship like this possible? Of course, it’s partly due to her character but I also felt like I glimpsed the secret when I saw the exhibition in Kyoto. She listens carefully to the monologues of people, things, and phenomena, to their soliloquies; she turns her gaze to them, she faces them. Dialogue is usually associated with a certain positive relationship, like facing each other, conversing and exchanging opinions. But in her case, monologue is made into dialogue, including even silence: from dogs that are put down to the elderly with dementia, the homeless living on the streets, the elderly in a temporary hut made from mosquito nets, a poet. In her previous works, people conversed: villagers, the dead, mute dogs, those called crazy, and ghosts. Silence, unilateral, incoherence, unintelligible, faint voices you can barely hear, lyrical words, groans, inscrutable behavior. Quietly, beautifully, gently she records these, and tenderly actualizes existence. In the exhibition title, NIRANAM: The Nameless, we can see her loving gaze on these muted things. And she acquires the technology to transcend borders of life and death, reality and dream, human and animal, to ask people the significance of departing the dimension where you currently exist.


A scene of doing a research at a care home for the elderly, 2014 Photographed by Ratchata Suwansilp

Her love was quiet, but also a little sad. The possibilities and impossibilities of sharing, communication, co-existence, and empathy: is this sadness for herself, who traverses these lacunae alone? The world is divided; what we do not know does not exist, their existence canceled. She eavesdrops on this sadness. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is a communicator with the diverse spaces of contemporary society. She does not intervene with, but penetrates soft borders such as mosquito nets. Like her, can I too cross the border? I too will try to eavesdrop, quietly.


A scene of doing a research in the mosquito net hut, 2014 Photographed by Ratchata Suwansilp

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, NIRANAM: The Nameless

Term: May 18, 2015 (Mon.) -June 14, 2015 (Sun.) 10:00-20:00
Venue: Kyoto Art Center (North & South Gallery, Lounge, Entrance)
Admission: Free
Organizer: Kyoto Art Center

〔Related Event〕Gallery Talk
The artist gave a talk on experience during residency period, artworks and the exhibition, together with those concerned with her production process.
Date: May 22, 2015 (Fri) 18:00-19:30
Venue: Kyoto Art Center (South Gallery)
Moderator: Naoko Horiuchi (curator, Arts Initiative Tokyo)

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook
Lives and works in Chiang Mai, Thailand. After earning both a BFA and an MFA in graphic arts from Silapakorn University, Bangkok, she continued her studies in Germany at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, receiving a diploma in 1990 and an MA in 1994. After early experiments with intaglio printmaking and sculptural installation, Rastjarmrearnsook began to concentrate on film and video in 1997. Her work is an articulation of the movement crossing boundaries between life and death, reality and dream, human beings and animals, in a way that challenges viewers' moral sense and tolerance through complex and provocative imagery. Her work has been installed at international institutions and biennials, including Documenta 13 (2012), Sydney Biennial (1996, 2010), and has also been shown in group exhibitions in Japan, at venues including the National Museum of Art, Osaka (2011) and Yokohama Museum of Art (2013).


Toru Koyamada

Born in Kagoshima in 1961. He graduated with a degree in Nihonga from Kyoto City University of Arts, where he then completed postgraduate studies in art research. In 1984, he formed the performance group Dumb Type with fellow students at the university. Alongside his work with Dumb Type, since 1990 Koyamada has developed a range of shared spaces, including planning the community centers Artscape and Weekend Cafe, as well as launching the community café Bazaar Cafe. He is a member of the Speleological Society of Japan.

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