SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI is an intercommunity platform in Thailand that is aimed at positivity, creativity, and conversation through the power of art and culture. A festival is hosted in celebration of art and culture.
In Thai, “Sawang Sawai” means bright, and by continually connecting people to new experiences, we at SIWILAI aspire to shine a bright light of hope into the unknown future. Taking place from 3-27 March 2022, our latest initiative, SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI, is an in-person community platform aimed at cultivating positivity, creativity, and conversation through the power of art and culture.
The multiweek art festival sees all SIWILAI venues (SIWILAI Store, SIWILAI Café, SIWILAI City Club and SIWILAI Sound Club) and designated areas throughout Central Embassy as well as Central: The Original Store in Charoenkrung, activated as living, breathing art spaces. Proudly presenting a nearly all-Thai artist roster, SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI is a one-of-a-kind gathering, extensive and eclectic in its support and amplification of the local art scene.
Art and Culture
SIWILAI founder Barom Bhicharnchitr explains: “We at SIWILAI are conscious of the role we can play in promoting progress and positivity within our society and local communities. We strongly believe in the power of art and culture as vehicles of hope, of a future worth striving for, especially in the face of current circumstances. Therefore, we are honored to be able to provide a central platform where the works and voices of Thai artists can be more widely seen and heard.”
He continues: “One of the main objectives of SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI is to spark new, dynamic ways of contemplating, appreciating, and engaging with art that is accessible to all. The festival also offers art collectors of all levels a unique opportunity to support homegrown talents by investing in one-off pieces that poignantly capture a defining moment in contemporary Thai art. In order to ensure a comprehensive representation of artists and artworks, SIWILAI has teamed up with three of the country’s leading contemporary art galleries to jointly curate this very special exhibition. Gallery VER, ARTIST+RUN, and Bangkok CityCity Gallery will be our co-hosts throughout this deep dive into the present and future of contemporary Thai art, bringing together some of the industry’s most influential and up-and-coming names.”
“Furthermore, we’ve collectively put together live events, workshops, and limited-edition collectibles created by the artists just for this occasion, providing infinite possibilities for everyone to experience art in their own unique way. We hope that SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI will be just the first of many future endeavours doing its part to drive contemporary Thai art forward, domestically, and internationally—all the while, spreading happiness, hope, and inspiration through the power of art and culture.”
Founder of ARTIST+RUN, Angrit Ajchariyasophon adds: “An event like SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI helps to create an open environment for collaboration and participation. The festival’s multifaceted format gives rise to fresh, exciting opportunities for experiencing contemporary art in a way that values freedom and creative critical thinking.”
For 25 days only, the public audience is invited into the private minds and personal processes of fifteen of the country’s foremost artists, including painters, sculptors, videographers, animators, installation artists, and performance artists. Rare as well as newly commissioned works from the likes of Rirkrit Tiravanija, Thaiwijit Puengkasemsomboon, Mit Jai Inn, Thasnai Sethaseree, Haritorn Akarapat, Jakkai Siributr, Eiji Sumi, Som Supaparinya, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Dhanut Tungsuwan, Harit Srikhao, Nutdanai Jitbunjong, Nuttapon Sawasdee, Saroot Supasuthivech, Alisa Chunchue and more are to be unveiled, many for the first time.
The festival’s theme of ‘Freedom’ takes inspiration from the graffitied artwork Untitled 2016 (freedom cannot be simulated/August 20, 2015) by Rirkrit Tiravanija, the Relational Aesthetics pioneer now widely recognized as one of the most influential artists of his generation. For SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI, Rirkrit has created an interactive station in SIWILAI Store wherein participants can silkscreen and take home DIY T-shirts boldly bearing his piece’s namesake phrase, “Freedom cannot be simulated.’ For the artist, the text-on-T-shirt acts like a road sign, eliciting individualized responses that can be recontextualized depending on what is going on in our daily life. By wearing the T-shirts in public spaces, the text responds to the current situation where freedom has become increasingly suppressed.
Rikrit is joined by his internationally renowned contemporary, the abstract painter and sculptor, Thaiwijit Puengkasemsomboon who presents three sets of works that succinctly capture his whimsical-yet-functional aesthetics. Sawang Sawai Siwilai (2021) comprises abstract acrylic-based paintings created especially for this eponymous exhibition and utilizes the essence of bright lights as a metaphor for the hope for life. Soulid Ground (2021) features pots sculpted from scrap materials, housing Euphorbia plants selected by the artist himself. Adapted for survival in harsh, arid conditions, these beautiful, unusually shaped succulents are in themselves living sculptures made by nature. The Leftover (2020) is a series of small sculptures each made from steel and plastic to form the shape of a squatting chair. Like much of his work, these sculpted seats, while playful in appearance, speak to deeper concerns on the impact of manmade waste on the natural environment.
Mit Jai Inn
Yet another established name in the Thai art scene is painter Mit Jai Inn, whose works defy the conventional boundaries of painting. True to form, Mit’s creation for SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI, titled Siam Rainbow Republic, disregards traditional methods of display. Unstretched, unframed two-sided paintings hang suspended in an open space, creating an area of freedom where viewers are invited to immerse themselves beneath without any confining walls. Created through a physically rigorous and repetitive labor cycle of mixing, applying, overlaying, and eroding pigments, his paintings don’t merely serve as an object of sight but are transformed into giant sunblinds. Constantly changing their colour based on the time of day, the site-specific pieces become an ever-evolving meditation on light and time.
In the realm of installation art, Thasnai Sethaseree’s make it like home . . . anywhere? (2002 – 2014) comprises and contemplates on the personal effects and positive memories shared with the artist by Thai migrants living in Chicago. The work reveals the nagging tensions between the nostalgic image of a graceful past and the yearning for a dazzling future; the fight for a better life versus the longing to return home—a home that they used to know yet a home that they no longer belong to. Mixed feelings push migrants into making critical decisions where choices are few. This further reflects the crisis of life in the modern world in a broader sense where the constant of time is torn apart.
Sculptor, Haritorn Akarapat, whose own commentary on the modern age and its effects on humankind can be seen in his large-scale work, On Human Nature (2016). In it, a series of hypnotic free-hand sculptures resembling human heads peer out menacingly at passers-by in a commercial setting. Their raw, almost repulsive expressions are in direct contrast to their glossy surroundings selling alluring images of parallel-dreamed lifestyles. His works seem to awaken viewers from the consumerist maze, reminding them of the dangers caused by modern-day delusions.
Initiated in 2021 during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Jakkai Siributr’s community art project Phayao-a-Porter continues to support the artisans of Phayao on their road towards economic recovery. What started as bespoke jackets commissioned by the artist’s friends—often bearing the likeness of their beloved pets—have evolved into one-of-a-kind wearable works of art, each one intricately embroidered by Phayao’s local seamstresses. In addition to fair wages, 30 percent of the sales of each jacket go back to the community as scholarships, welfare, and emergency funds. For SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI, Jakkai will be creating a limited number of bespoke embroidered jackets with proceeds being unneled directly back into the community.
The Tokyo-born-Bangkok-based visual artist, Eiji Sumi is known for his light-filled, interactive urban installations that merge art-science practices and social issues with his eclectic sensibility. Using the playground as a metaphor for exploring the political landscape, Here and There (2018) features a stage with a seesaw-like mechanism that plays with weight and gravity as per classical physics. Under the law of momentum, the beam structure needs ‘force’ to support the circular stage that inevitably has two sides that need to stay balanced. A commentary on Thailand’s societal and political history, the stage represents the situations where things aren’t always what they seem, where perceived solutions for some may be the source of problems for others. Furthermore, the stage’s round shape creates difficulty in deciphering left from right, giving rise to unclear directions or sides. Regardless of where we stand, on the stage or as a spectator, we are reminded that the differences depend on how we look at things.
Visual artist, Som Supaparinya, whoose more recent projects focus on the history and impact of human activities on other existences as well as landscapes presents 10 Places in Tokyo [RGB] (2021); a revision of the original 2016 version which featured video footage of the top ten locations in Tokyo that reportedly consumed the most electricity in 2010. Despite the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the city remains reliant on nuclear power, and in her polychromatic color videos, Som incorporates the effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, which caused an enormous white flash in the sky. The space is also suffused with an eerie red glow as if making visible the hidden radioactivity from Fukushima. By combining two historical events that were triggered by nuclear technology, the work raises concerns over issues related to local and global energy demand and consumption.
Visual artist, filmmaker, and storyteller, Korakrit Arunanondchai employs a versatile practice to tell stories embedded in cultural transplantation and hybridity. He produces reality-bending, cross-sensory experiences spanning a multitude of mediums and subject matters primarily based on the lives of family members, friends, and colleagues as much as taking inspiration from local myths. Far from being a solitary artist, he has created videos, performances, and music with an extensive list of collaborators, as evident in his piece, There will be no music in this room, only scars left on the face of this planet, 2021. Alongside this, the artist has chosen to exhibit two additional video and performance based pieces. Taking its numerical name from the Buddhist calendar, Painting with History Archive – 2556 (2013) he weighs in on the age-old dispute as to what art is and what it is not, simultaneously illuminating on the artist’s own process of self-actualisation. Meanwhile, Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3, 2015 centres around a conversation between ‘The Denim Painter’, an amalgamated representation of the artist, and ‘Chantri’, an omniscient spirit. Within his intimate letter to the latter, fragments of Korakirt’s thoughts on spirituality, technology, and geopolitics fuse to narrate his views towards contemporary society.
Emerging artist, Dhanut Thungsuwan blends imagery and information gleaned from films, the Internet, and other modern-day media with fragments of his own memories, the two often becoming indistinguishable. His longtime love for sci-fi films, with their exciting escapades into far-flung dimensions, collides with personal experiences as a young creator existing in this era of hyperconnectivity and information overload wherein technological advances have become borderline invasive. What results are vivid oil-on-canvas paintings that are flatly, yet deftly applied with emotionally charged brushstrokes, juxtaposing familiar and outlandish images that traverse time and spaces.
Upon discovering that much of his adolescent memories were built on media-spawned nationalistic propaganda, new gen artist, Harit Srikhao took to photography as an outlet for expressing his dismay. In Mt. Meru (2017), Harit uses surrealism and fetishism to create an alternate reality to that of Thailand’s political history between 2007-2010: one of intense political and social disruptions following the 2006 coup. Some photographs are recreations of iconic mythological imagery, while others feature unknown figures in gimp suits. Others still highlight the imposition of colonialism throughout the country’s history. These striking visuals ultimately raise questions on faith and morality in Thai society.
Nutdanai Jitbunjong uses a research-based and process-oriented artistic approach to explore power structures within the sociopolitical context. His Pillars Babel (2021) takes inspiration from the Tower of Babel, built in the second millennium B.C. in the ancient city of Babylon (present-day Iraq). The tall edifice aimed towards the heavens has become a well-known symbol of human ambition, one ultimately disrupted and brought down by God. As the origin myth goes, the city was never completed; its citizens were dispersed all over the earth, giving rise to different languages. Nutdanai’s version—comprising 112 con-blocks positioned circularly in the shape of a tower nearly touching the ceiling—similarly symbolises the ambition of the people to embark on the path towards true democracy and freedom of expression that has long been suppressed.
Nuttapon Sawasdee works with diverse media, including film, sound, installation, and performance, to examine personal values and beliefs as well as current social issues. His sound installation, entitled Never wish to exist, yet never hope to disappear (2021), uses the soundscapes of various Bangkok-based locations to reflect the identity of said spaces where economics and politics overlap. The soundscapes vary greatly, ranging from the sound of people to the sound of poverty to the sound of anger to sounds that are sometimes inaudible. Conflictingly, while trying to save these sounds, the artist simultaneously wishes them to somehow disappear.
Mixed-media artist, Saroot Supasuthivech is interested in the oral histories and personal narratives of places that have never been recorded before. CCTV OF THE SECURITY GUARD (2019) builds upon the artist’s previous work, Security Guard (2017), a video installation exploring the memories of a security guard at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). Divided into multiple screens similar to a CCTV monitor, the footage recalls ghost stories and other tales of mystery encountered by the secret guard—this time with additional images that capture the after-hour emptiness from different areas throughout the art centre. The convergence of the site-specific history with the memories of the security guard evokes senses that the art centre as a living organism, while the CCTV footage naturally shifts the viewers to a surveilling point of view.
Alisa Chunchue’s works are an investigation into the body and self. By unearthing the unique essence of her chosen materials, be they synthetics or liquids, the visual artist enters into a deep exploration of the physical world at its most fundamental levels. Her site-responsive, public art project Muscle and Pharynx (2020-2021), situated at SIWILAI City Club, aims to merge art and everyday life. Focusing on the senses of touch and taste as primal, physiological human needs, the work consists of objects found in the artist’s home; pieces of jewellery, textiles, utensils, and bronze sculptures have been reinvented and cast in the shape of her mouth. The objects, created by Bangkok-based craftswomen, function as tableware with which diners-turned-participants can enjoy specially curated dishes and drinks while reflecting on the dichotomies of privacy and sociability, intimacy, and aloofness.
Emphasising immersive and interactive experiences, SAWANG SAWAI SIWILAI puts forth a four-weekend series of artist talks, workshops, musical performances, art tours, art markets, and food-and-art based collaborations. Highlights include a dinner dreamt up by two world-renowned creators, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and chef, David Thompson; a night of live performances by artists Korakrit Arunanondchai and Dhanut Tungsuwan, together with their musical guests; a pasta-making masterclass by Nam Nam Pasta and Tapas, inspired by the works of Mit Jai Inn; a drawing workshop with illustrator, Juli Baker; and Thaiwijit Puengkasemsomboon’s takeover and transformation of the Siwilai Cafe into an artistically inspired ‘Soulid Ground’ Cafe. Plus, musical happenings and lively events from the likes of Quay Records, Horoza, and other creative collectives complete this comprehensive line-up.
Additionally, property developer AP THAILAND has transformed Central Embassy’s Level 4 gallery into ‘THE IDEAL WORLD STORE,’ a mixed-use concept space posing the profound question: “Are we suffering from forgetting how to dream of a better world?” Rather than proposing a singular answer, the interactive exhibition explores not one but millions of versions of the ideal world in which all lives can represent a form of ideal living, just in different ways.
Join us for this unprecedented gathering, taking place 3-27 March 2022 at all SIWILAI venues (SIWILAI Store, SIWILAI Café, SIWILAI City Club, and SIWILAI Sound Club) and designated areas throughout Central Embassy as well as Central: The Original Store in Charoenkrung. Entry to the festival is free of charge and open to all. To ensure the safety of all our participants, we will be stringently observing official COVID-19 health and safety protocols. For updates and additional information on festival happenings, including workshop and event schedules, be sure to follow www.facebook.com/SawangSawaiSiwilai
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