I first wanted to independently write to your paper, but I was not fast
enough since I felt I needed to go back to the exhibition that Mr. Doris
Kraushaar was commenting on your recent issue. After the opening I have been
back twice to this remarkable show of SEA art works under the title
Identities vs. Globalisation? (Please Doris do not simply forget the
question mark when referring to the title!) And I wish now to rather write
my thoughts in direct response to Doris:
I am a Thai citizen, but have been educated and lived
abroad for quite some years. In this sense I am a traveller between the
worlds and a product of globalisation myself. Doris Kraus undersigned as an
artist living and working in Chiang Mai, but from the name I can guess that
she must have come to live and work in my country by her own choice. But
have you ever thought of the many migrants (not only in Thailand but world
over) who are forced to live as refugees (see Mella Jaarsma’s work looking
at this problem in the exhibition) or who have settled after years of
turmoil somewhere they do not call home after all, let alone that they are
not welcomed in their new host country?
Reading your comment, I feel you are asking not to judge
from the perspective of the comfortable, well off winner of globalisation
mourning the loss of treasured values and realities in the wake of
globalisation. While you are coming from a country where the shaky years of
change are long gone (if they have been shaky at all) and assuming that we
are all sharing the benefits of a free western society, I was looking at art
works that I see as direct voices from the respective countries, and I am
not surprised that a Laotian artist expresses strong concerns and fears of
being run over by the forces of modernisation, be they global or in the form
of Thai economic and cultural dominance.
It is only natural that the Cambodians are simply
requesting time for not only economic but also cultural recovery after years
of turmoil, while at the same time they are longing to be integrated into
the world, the sooner the better.
If a Vietnamese male artist expresses concern over the
sexualisation of Vietnamese women in his newly opened society, it shows to
me that many of the social ills that we all got used to long ago are just
beginning in his country. Don’t bother, seemingly says Kraushaar.
Two Vietnamese female artists express their encounters
with globalisation in very different ways. While the one is concerned that
globalisation and economic opening carries the danger of extinguishing the
little oil lamps symbolising the millions not so well to do Vietnamese in
her country, right opposite to her artwork, her colleague emphasizes the
strength of the Vietnamese people and society to be able to resist the
negative impact of monetarisation (symbolised as a wave of US dollar notes),
which I think is a problem and should not be ignored.
I joined some of the discussions organised by the
Heinrich Boell people in conjunction with the exhibition opening at the
Amari Hotel and it was there where I witnessed a very intense, controversial
and multifaceted discussion around globalisation at large, and particularly
its ramifications for the arts and the artists. This discussion proved that
the conversation circles that Kraushaar obviously attended or observed in
the opening eve comparing globalisation to communism must be a rather
marginal group of extreme pessimists or ideologists.
Nevertheless, reading Kraushaar’s comments, I can’t
get rid of the feeling that she feels somewhat disturbed or at unease with
the fact that her world perception of globalisation (being simply a blend of
cultures, ideas and concepts) have been challenged. I do share her vision,
but we need to accept that realities are very different, not equal for all
and it is unfortunately not a matter of choice for all people, as in
Kraushaar’s case, and in that of her friend from Koh Phangnan.
I didn’t see or hear a single artist calling upon a
return to simplicity without electricity and you can see in the exhibition
that many artists are embracing modern media as their form of expression. I
am proud that the Thai artists took a critical, yet relaxed approach to
cover the theme, somewhat indicating that Thailand is striking a somewhat
healthy balance in the globalisation and modernisation of our society. So do
the Singaporean and the non-Muslim Malaysian artists; they can afford a
rather humoristic approach. For them there is no existential question, but
rather side effects of globalisation are to be discussed or migration, peace
I encourage everybody to watch the video presentation of
Malaysian female artist Nur Hanim. You will definitely not feel simply
entertained by her powerful video artwork! I myself felt rather depressed
and at unease with her perception, but looking to the South of my own
country, I learned from this video about how important perception is,
whether I like it or not, whether I agree with her or not, and I do not.
But I have to take her voice seriously and need to bear
the moments of feeling disturbed and uncomfortable with what she has to say.
I advise Kraushaar and all others feeling not at ease with the criticism
reflected to go and have another look and check who is talking and what
their realities are.
I thank the organisers for this great show and even more
for the catalogue as a means to take the discussion home, for me back to
Bangkok and to the classroom.
Thai art lover and global citizen by choice