Publisher: NUS Press
Dimensions: 22.9cm(H) x 17.8cm(W) / 9.0"(H) x 7.0"(W)
Note: Actual colours may vary due to photography & computer settings.
Since the 1990s, Thai contemporary art has achieved remarkable international recognition, circulating globally by way of biennials, museums and commercial galleries. Yet while many Thai artists have shed the symbolic language of “Thainess,” the nation remains an important context for interpreting their work. In this book, curator and critic David Teh captures the energy and the frustrations of Thai contemporary art as it has become a prominent vehicle for both domestic and international projections of the nation. Reflecting Thailand’s economic and political misadventures, and its advanced but compromising globalization, art proves a telling, if often reluctant, companion to the country’s faltering modernity.
In the first scholarly study of Thai art since 1992, Teh uncovers the means by which Thai modern art has become contemporary, and how this contemporaneity has been claimed and contested in Thailand and elsewhere. These claims signalled an urge to join global currents, but also frustration with prevailing forms of patronage at home; as Thai art’s international appeal has grown, at home it has been sapped by chronic political failure and a grave symbolic crisis. How have artists responded to these crises? How have they expressed, and failed to express, the nation’s predicament?
This book spotlights a generation of artists shuttling between local and global art worlds. It describes the transition from an artistic subjectivity couched in terms of national community to a more qualified, postnational one, against the backdrop of the singular but waning sovereignty of the Thai monarchy and sustained political and economic turmoil. Teh shows how the values of the global art world are exchanged with local ones, how they do and don’t correspond, and how these discrepancies have been exploited. Among the “currencies” he identifies are an agricultural symbology, a Siamese poetics of distance, and Hindu-Buddhist conceptions of charismatic power. Each of these has been converted into legal tender in global art—signifying sustainability, utopia, and the relational—but what is lost, and what may be gained, in such exchanges?
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