Korakrit Arunanondchai Stages Show at Art Sonje Center in Seoul – ARTnews.com


Artist Korakrit Arunanondchai has spent the last decade establishing himself as one of those very few figures able to navigate the international art circuit with apparent ease, landing in each new city with alluring new work – a captivating video; paintings on denim that he bleached, burned and mended; or a rococo installation incorporating these things and more. In 2019 alone, he appeared in six biennials in five countries: Venice, Istanbul, Singapore, Performa and the Whitney in New York, and the Taichung Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan.

He made art that played with identity, pushed the boundaries between mediums, and generally exuded the excitement of a very fun, very secretive evening. He operated from his hometown of Bangkok and New York, where he also lived and worked for over a decade. Then the pandemic hit.

Arunanondchai, 35, spent a year and a half stuck in Thailand, including a month in the middle of confinement on the island of Koh Tao, where he practiced apnea. “That’s when I started thinking about water,” the artist said Wednesday afternoon, sitting outside a hanokstyle cafe in Seoul. An agile and abstract thinker, he then launched into a discussion of Freud’s concept of “ocean feeling, which is basically any religious feeling you have about joining a group, nature – it’s like the space of death , or like pre-birth. It’s like being back in the womb, without separation.

“Korakrit Arunanondchai: Songs for Dying and Songs for Living” runs at the Art Sonje Center in Seoul until October 30.

Sonje Arts Center

One of Arunanondchai’s recent videos, songs to live (2021), which is screened alongside in a solo exhibition in the basement auditorium of the Sonje Art Center (until October 30), immerses viewers directly in this kind of environment. The camera glides through deep water, passing fish and a giant turtle. Everything is amber orange.

“The ocean in the video is the color of the womb,” he said. At one point, he appears upside down in the water, his long hair floating as squid ink drips from his mouth. There are shots of black-winged angels wearing helmets and riding electric unicycles through the streets of New York, and people dancing topless around a campfire – and an obscure voiceover with lyrics of “flesh” which will “filter all sounds”.

The 20-minute work – a collaboration with his frequent creative partner, Alex Gvojic – suggests a grand abstract sci-fi pagan tale, with hints of death and rebirth. Feeling “almost like composing a song,” the artist said, and the soundtrack is distinctively captivating, with ominous ambient passages and explosive percussion from Brian Chippendale of noise band Lightning Bolt. “I kind of wanted to pull all that energy that I could see from New York, having been gone for a year and a half,” Arunanondchai said. (Lightning Bolt, for him, “was physically touching people, physically touching objects” and “space being filled with sound”.)

Lights shine on a screen in a purple theater.  The children stand near the flames.

People, including children, gather around the fire in part of Korakrit Arunanondchai’s video work songs to liveon view at the Art Sonje Center in Seoul.

Sonje Arts Center

The piece contrasts sharply with the show’s other main work, the video songs to die (2021), which he directed while still in Thailand. It includes footage from the 2020 protests in Bangkok, mass graves from the late 1940s uprising on the Korean island of Jeju, and his grandfather’s funeral in 2020. Produced for the 2021 Gwangju Biennale in that city South Korean, it’s “probably the most documentary video I’ve done,” said Arunanondchai.

It’s also a raw and emotional masterclass in political struggle and personal grief. It connects the two, offering a sense of unity between people in their longings, their pain and their hopes of closure. Some scenes date from 2010 and show the artist and his grandfather walking along a rural beach in Thailand. “I started filming because my grandfather started having Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. It presents an artist evolving at a very high level.

With the easing of border rules, Arunanondchai is back to his itinerant habits. Last month he was in Aspen, Colorado, for a performance, and while in Seoul he was editing a new video which will debut in less than two weeks at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. He will then inaugurate the new Canal Projects space in Manhattan with songs to live, then decamps to Bangkok for the second edition of Ghost, an art festival he launched in 2018 that will run from October 12 to November 13 in various locations around the city. (He’ll be back in Seoul in December for a solo show at Kukje Gallery.) Independent curator Christina Li will curate this ghost, which she’s titled “Live Without Dead Time,” and some 20 artists have been announced. so far. , including Hito Steyerl and Meriem Bennani. Arunanondchai organized his first outing, but this time he is “the fundraiser and the organizer”, he said.

Why organize an art festival? “What I’ve always wanted to share in my work is that sense of a shared place,” he said. According to him, “you can’t do it through an individual voice or in an individual”.


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