06 // Pressetexte # 02 Text (engl.) über Preechaya Siripanichs Arbeiten, 2008
von Yasin Güzel
(Translation: Philipp Albers):
"The works of Thai artist Preechaya Siripanich explore the tensions between nature and culture, man and city, culture and identity, life and death, wish and reality. He unfolds these topics in narrative installations and architectural miniatures. The meaning of space and architecture are often at the fore of his works of art, reflecting the modern ways of living and the basic conditions of our human existence.
For example, on occasion of an exhibition in one of the multistoried parking garages of the company BrePark (2006), the artist engaged with the site. Using packaging materials such as cardboard, he built a model of such a garage. He contrasts the solid and luxurious building with a plain construction of paper. On the paper roof an ironic label states "Please Remove," basically a superfluous instruction to the consumer. Given the context, the sentence devalues a stony "monstrosity" in the city space and - at the same time - ironically attacks the artist's own artistic practice. Worthlessness, transience, and isolation are constant elements of his work. The cityscape and architectural models are devoid of people, as if these places have been left behind, having become useless. Reasons might be a recession or natural disaster, for example. The work Volcanic Eruption hints at this with its title. The playful architectural forms made of cardboard are covered with white dust, cold snow blanketing everything. A city in decay.
Igloo (2006) also visualizes such deserted spaces and loss: inside the tent are sand, stones, and plants. Nature has taken over culture again after the people's departure. At the same time it represents a basic human situation: to shield himself against the forces of nature, man needs a shelter. He tries to tame nature in a cultural enclosure. Here, the beginning and end of culture meet. People come, people go. The tent is also the form of nomadic dwelling.
The work The Tent (2006) opens a view into an improvised abode made of freezer foil with the logo of the supermarket chain Penny, and in it we can see the most basic belongings of a human being. Someone is still living here. The nomad or derelict uses materials from other contexts to secure his existence. The tent is reminiscent of an emergency shelter, made from waste materials by people in impoverished areas. Another more personal experience of the artist also comes into play here. Siripanich emigrated from Thailand to Germany. After having studied art in Thailand, he attended art school again in Bremen to engage with European art and its traditions. Every migrant knows the feelings of uprooting, an inner homelessness. It is an inner floating between two places that prevents settling down permanently. In Kiosk (2005/08), exhibited in the Städtische Galerie Bremen and the Galerie für Gegenwartskunst, the artist also reflects on this experience. A kiosk is a public meeting place for homeless people, and here it is itself a shack that could be set up elsewhere.
The artist conveys the floating between the present life here and life there especially insistently in the work Two Places (2008). It consists of a bench arranged around a column of the Städtische Galerie. Bark mulch lies on the floor around the column, and there is a Douglas fir. The fir stands in a pot - a miniature park, as it were. Beside the pot there is a photograph depicting a Buddhist meditating on a bench also in front of a landscape of firs in Thailand. Those who notice the photograph will realize that they are engaging in an action similar to the Buddhist. Proximity and a personal connection to the other world of the photograph are created. Siripanich enables the viewer to experience for himself the experience to inwardly live at two places. The fir is also a proxy for Christmas and Christianity. Thus, Two Places also reflects a social reality we might designate as transculture.
It means that cultures always relate to one another and intermingle. They are in constant contact with each other. Globalization and migration only intensified this process. In the installation Äst (2008) the packaging of Asian fast food gets caught in a tree. This could happen in many places in today's world, an effect of the worldwide exchange of goods, food, and consumer products.
The work Samui (2008) addresses the yearning for a homeland or, more generally, the yearning for a different, maybe ideal world. Samui is a Thai island. In front of a suitcase, a guitar, and two palms are three tablets on provisional wood stands. The rays on the middle tablet point to the middle, like a star, which is also a symbol for far-off places and for longing. In this context it can be interpreted as a sign for the human search for a place where one can feel secure. Even if just for a short period of recreation. It calls to mind the nomad - and then the traveler and the tourist, who is also on the go for a limited period of time. Samui is also a popular tourist destination.
Visions and wishes in general are important topics for the artist. There hangs a bag, again with a Star (2008), as a ready-made on the wall. It is a product of the magazine Stern. With its rich connotations of signposts, light, glamorous individuality, and fulfillment, this symbol has been conferred on a simple commodity, a news magazine. Should it promise guidance and light? Advertising attaches an external object to the need for happiness. On the wall the star seems to speak for itself again, indicating a closeness to pop art, which deals with advertising quite critically, partly using consumer goods as material.
In the work For Heaven's Sake (2007) the artist also hints at how advertising appropriates symbols and emotions, and how capital defines life. Namely, the holes in the bag are exactly the size of one-euro coins.
Architecture is another arena for embodying visions. Stadium (2008) is a minimalist and playful work of art. Stadiums are stages for extraordinary stories and events; they are the linchpin of urban visions. Identifying with the athletic successes that take place there, the individual gains a sense of grandeur and power. Here again, the artist works against the structure's monumental meaning by employing transient materials such as cardboard and plywood. The model gives the impression of being unfinished, as if still under construction. In a way the public stadium is provisional like the private tent. Two other architectural models, Hall and Bunker (2008), also belong to this minimalist group of works. In contrast to the open and public Stadium they seem to enclose something private and are evocative of coffins. Their function remains enigmatic.
It may be noted here that architecture, because it is also a refuge, is considered as an extension of the body. In Siripanich's works it is also always to be understood as a symbol of the perishable human being and his perishable culture. Memento mori are a constant motif in the sculptures and installations. Gathering (2007) assembles dead birds, starlings, made of paper in a display cabinet as in a coffin. A dreadful, apocalyptic idea. By all means can it be interpreted as a parable of the situation of art. The desire for fame, the want to rise above the circumstances, at which the starling hints, finds its remorseless end in death. Dead is dead. That is where life comes to a head. Thus, in Morning on the Terrace (2007) another dead bird lays in the corner of a triangular balcony. Death looms everywhere, even in the abstract repository of culture. It can rise against nature but cannot transcend this boundary.
Siripanich very clearly investigates the relationship between culture and nature. Encountering dead animals on the street or in the home is not uncommon. They are in part the victims of civilization. The installation Magpie (2007) poetically and buoyantly sheds light on the interrelation between nature and city. A bicycle covered with a blanket thereby receives a skin, a body. In contrast, the magpie as a living animal is formed as a word and introduced as a cultural, abstract existence. At the same time the sequence of letters could be a view of the city from above. Or roadways, on which the bicycle and the bird move. The artist transfigures the machine into nature and translates the animal into culture. The boundaries between the two blur, and they form a whole.
The artist from Thailand explores cultural processes in his own special way. Given his background, he deals with the relationship of Asian and Western culture and in his artistic work fuses forms and ideas from both worlds. He himself has been shaped by Buddhism, which also in part defines the contents of his works and explains his affinity to minimalism. His works emphasize the changes, the transience, and evanescence of life. Advertising as well is just superficial information, which we briefly absorb and then forget. In the end, nothing remains for us personally. We are all travelers and wanderers. Our body is only a provisional packaging for our soul and spirit. Particularly in view of death, our drives and wishes are important, guiding powers for the creation of meaning and identity. Siripanich examines how these powers shape our urban environment. How the concrete acts in the abstract, or how nature acts in culture."