Re-Vision Bangkok – 5th Asia Europe Artcamp 2008

The Asia-Europe Art Camp project is an initiative set up by Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) in 2003 focusing on New Media Art. The project aims at developing a platform promoting dialogue for art students, to learn more about each other’s contexts, cultures and get inspired during a week of lectures, workshops and cultural visits. Focusing more on the creative process than on the “artistic product”, the Camp has been designed as a learning experience and an opportunity for professional development.
As part of the Asia-Europe Art Camp series, this Fifth edition of the camp, re-Vision Bangkok | New Media Art and interactivity, ASEF gathered 20 emerging artists or last year students from various ASEM countries to explore the possibility of connecting new media art practices to the relational aesthetic concept coined by Nicolas Bourriaud, French critic and curator.
This camp will be an attempt to encompass a set of artistic practices, which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space. In relational aesthetic, the audience is envisaged as a community. Rather than the artwork being an encounter between a viewer and an object, relational art produces inter-subjective encounters. Through these encounters, meaning is elaborated collectively, rather than in the space of individual consumption.
Led and facilitated by a team of Asia-Europe experts, specialised in new media and social art issues, participants will be guided to re-construct small communities in different social and cultural urban spaces in Bangkok during the fieldwork. They will explore potential interaction with all working sites through various new media art practices.

In this opportunity, I was a part of BTS group who will response a new advanced transportation system in bangkok. Bangkok Transport System – Sky Train (BTS – Sky Train) group was: Adhitep Duksukkaew (Thailand), Darragh O’ Callaghan (Ireland), Jette Hye Jin Mortensen (Denmark), Rares Kovesdi (Romania), Branko Andric (Austria), Andreas Siagian (Indonesia) and ‘Bank’ (Volunteer – Thailand). Here is our activities during this project:

01. Discussion

The group started out to see BTS-Sky Train as a modern mass transportation system for Bangkok city. Using advance technology, optimum infrastructure and high security system, BTS is one of the most advanced mass transportation system the group have encountered in Bangkok city. The group perspective of sociology and psychology of BTS is how it represents new forms of perception space, time and environment, which have influence on the citizen or the post-modern Thai-subject.

After the first visit to BTS, the group started the discussion with the topics of transport system is the action or means of moving people from one place to another, linking one place to another by means of travel. It was an interesting fact to the group that everything in the universe are continuously moving in form of translation, rotation, revolution, transformation and evolution with no absolute reference system.

As BTS function in transporting mass society, it provides large space for the public to do a large amount of movement in relation to the density of the space. It also create a condition where a space is shared by public from diverse culture with time as its’ variable. There were enormous elements, which the group can respond according to the social, and culture issue that the group would like to approach in art collaborative production in the context of media art and interactivity.

The discussion started to get interesting as the group began to have divergent personal ideas related to the undiscovered topics, elements of space that will be respond, implementation of the works and in relation to the technologies, which facilitates art and culture production. The cultural, disciplinal, and professional background varieties in every person in the group have a substantial influence on the differences of perspectives.

02. Process
These are some topics that the group conceive during the discussions:

a. A cultural visit to Ayutthaya on the second day generate the interest to the group of how Thailand in the golden age used water transportation as their main access of economy, social culture exchanges, and military power. The group would like to bring the concept of how the past meets the present where visualization of water transportation is presented in one space for the audience in BTS.

b. Humour and storytelling are some methods that create the same or different interest in a subject. Common interest will create a connection between two or more personal disregarding their cultural background, identity and profession. The desire to interact with others is part of human nature, which can be unleashed by sharing the same point of interest with others. This was from the experience in the introduction stage of every person in the group. The idea to involve a storytelling in the collaborative art works will be an interesting approach for the public.

c. Our mind cannot be transported through physical movement. It only can be stimulate by the perception that our body receive during movement through interpretation of our thought. Through the duration of traveling a destination, the public have to spend amount of time waiting. The group observed on how people who travel individually, choose to busy themselves by listening to music, thinking or sleeping. It was an interesting part where their mind was wandering around in another space, different from their current physical space. The group would like to make an artistic approach using audio and visual simulation on the people inside the train in traveling period.

d. “No Art In BTS”. These words were the expression of how the group encountered difficulties in using the facilities in BTS. There was even an expression that the group practically couldn’t do anything in BTS due to the tight security system. The group could not accept this state as a ban for art production in BTS. As the group wanted to use the audiovisual system inside of the train, a large amount of money should be provide for renting the audiovisual system of the train. Beside the main function of the audiovisual system is to pronounce the arrival to a certain point of destination, it is also used for advertisement of commercial products. BTS also provide spaces for commercial advertisement in the station.

The group idea was to use advertisement as an element in approach to collaborative art production. The subject that will be use for the advertisement is the people in BTS who caught up with the system and daily routine that they are failed to observe the environment surround them. The group observation on how people in BTS became senseless to others, social issues and interaction with the environment. The idea was also to counteract on how art production were made by the people in BTS subconsciously. Through the advertisement kit such as stickers and flyers, that contain photography, people in BTS will realize the presence of something or someone in BTS that was hidden subconsciously by their mind.

Additionally, it was fascinating what the group discovered in observing the presence of interesting subjects in BTS during advertisement producing process. Through photography, the group succeed in capturing interesting topic and revealing it to others. The observing experience give a better understanding about social and culture post modern of Bangkok to the group.

03. Concept
After hours of discussion and research on the topics, the group decided in relating four interesting topics in a concrete concept and the implementation of the project. Since there is no significant facilities in BTS that the group could use for the project, the group must prepare portable devices which some of it was provided by Bangkok University. The concept of the project was a continuous three performance in BTS by the group approaching four topics from the discussion. These are the following performances:

a. Crossing Time
The first performance took the concept of visualization of traveling using a boat in Bangkok city, which are displayed by 3 person using 3 laptops while the sound was a story telling based on an interview of the people traveling by boat.
The group would like to share the concept of being in a space where you visually experienced a total different place. The story telling using a recorded interview played on tape also specified the on how the group approach on attracting the public in a subject that is a common knowledge but yet undiscovered by the public.

b. Space Motion
The second performance of the group was produced also inside the BTS train. Two people from different cultures, Jette Hye Jin (originally from Korea) and Darragh O’ Callaghan (Ireland), came together in the center of the train to create a dance performance routine. As if some sort of energy was created between the two performers, interchanging rhythmic body motions starts to simulate and develop in an organic manner, communicated only through eye contact. When the train stopped, so too did the performance actions, with each performer going their own way. This highlighted the transitional time spent on the BTS and in many ways in life.

This performance is also used to produce a videowork that relates the phase of the performer with the phase of the train. In this videowork, the group would like to produce a concept of contradictory visual inside of the train with the visual outside.
After looking back on footage, the group found the more intense the performance became the more engaged the audience became with the piece.

Through this performance, the group would like to focus on challenging people’s outlook on these terms. Linking, movement, and transitional time of the BTS, were to the fore. In BTS space the people unite under one destination and mode of travel regarding cultural diversities. The group wanted to create a link between different cultures and backgrounds, just like the BTS did, but also show the bond that can be created within such a short period of time.

c. No Art in BTS
The third performance about three people traveling using BTS doing art performance using advertisement of how they see that there is no art in BTS but at the same time, they didn’t realize that they are doing art. The advertisement are meant to tell the people that there are interesting subjects that they were failed to observe due to daily routines of using BTS. The advertisement was first made through photography by Adhitep Duksukkaew (Thailand), Rares Kovesdi (Romania) and Andreas Siagian (Indonesia) contain interesting subject of the people who was using BTS. The photography then will be used as a video and printed material such as stickers and flyers.

Three people as the main performers will do the implementation of the project. Two of them will use a portable television to display animation of the advertisement while the other one will be handing out the printed materials to the people in BTS. Apparently due to the limited duration of the project, the group were unable to perform this piece.

04. Conclusion
Through many diversities of opinion, perspective and concept, the group learned invaluable learning experience in the process. There were also a lot of difficulties where the group must positioned themselves into a significant differential of social, culture, and its’ system in a very short amount of time. It would be also very helpful to have guidance in the learning process during fieldworks. From all the difficulties the group came up its’ maximum capacity with the limitation of time and resources although the group would like to do more outputs reviewing the potential amount and quality issues in BTS. It was a challenging collaboration for all of the personal, and important value for future projects.

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