Friday, August 17, 2012

Considering Rasdjarmrearnsook

The Daily Beast recently noted Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's video series, "The Two Worlds." The premise is Araya rambles off into the Thai countryside with reproductions of famous Western paintings and then tapes the responses of the farmers and asks them to interpret it. Then Araya brings the results back to her colleagues in Thailand and around the world. This is a still from one of her videos of farmers looking at Millet's The Gleaners.

I enjoy the idea of art appreciation in unusual settings, but I'm not sure I agree with what appears to be a very arrogant, elitist act on one's own countrymen (literally) to prop up a former colonial power's aesthetic standards.

"You don't get Jackson Pollack? Bumpkin. But at least I'll make money showing my results of your ill-informed reactions at the MoMA!"

I haven't seen the entire videos but I would hope Araya bothered to engage them in a longer discussion afterwards about how 'mainstream' Thai aesthetics view these examples of Western art, or alternate responses. In any act of art engagement, there should be more to it.

The typical bio you can find online for her is "Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is universally recognized as one of the leading video artists from Southeast Asia. For the past 25 years, her video, installation, and graphic works have been regularly shown in institutions in her native Thailand and throughout the world."

Her approach creates many interesting questions for Lao artists in diaspora, considering the emerging passion for photography and videography. In addition to questions of culture, I think issues of class and gender will rise forward in our community discussions. Who is privileged to engage our communities and introduce them to what aspects of the arts, and who is not.

What would have happened if this was approached from a social justice angle of Thai farmers looking at books of art and bringing it to the Thai artists and asking them to give an honest opinion and filming those responses? Or would that risk too much cultural depantsing and risk too many scandals? What would happen if some artists were revealed to value art only from a mercenary sense of cash value than an appreciation of its history and the way its previous owners lives are intertwined with it now?

No comments: