Monday, April 22, 2013

ASIATOPIA’S CHUMPON APISUK (Third of four parts) (April 22, 2013)

Vim Nadera: Personally, what happened since you first performed in 1996?
Chumpon Apisuk: My popular international participation in performance was in Bali in 1986. However, I already did several action art with friends like Surapol and Kamol before that.

VN: What is you most memorable performance? Why?
CA: I have a few performances that I keep on repeating like Standing wherein I stood holding an umbrella with an empty chair and Hearts where I burst several heart-shaped balloons. I like them so much. Standing is good for outdoor action, and Hearts was good for indoor, especially a room with good resonance. I like simple action that makes good impressions to people. Most of my performances do not have much action. Not complicated. Most of the time it is the site that really inspires the piece.

I normally repeat my performance for a few times until I find it enough or satisfactory. I learn a few things or find a new piece from it. I never get bored of repeating Standing and Hearts. I will never get bored doing it. And because of its interactive nature, both pieces often inspire me to think of newer ideas.

VN: Newer ideas like Concrete House? Why did you put it up in 1993?
CA: In Bangkok, even before the early 90s, there were only a few commercial art galleries. No not-for-profit type of art centers. It was harder when The Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art went out of business in 1988. Artists who used to hang out at The Bhirasri had no place to go to where they can get together. We just trooped to our friends’ pubs. Organizing art exhibitions in pubs was not really a bad idea. However, the pubs at the time were not built as alternative spaces. So, this is where the Concrete House fit in. My wife and I bought a building for us to have our own space for work. The building was huge. So we began what we called ARTIVITIES which was good for such a big space.

We had Alwin Reamillo from the Philippines and Juliet Lea from Australia who were the first couple to be our artists-in-residence. Then the Yellow Man from Singapore, Lee Wen, came in and a few international artists including German Helmut Lemke, Singaporean Koh Nguan How, and Veronica whose surname I forgot since she later ended up in Hanoi for a long time. They jammed with our group composed of Vasan Sitthiket, Surapol Panyawacheera, Paisan Plienbangchang who all participated with other Thai artists.

VN: You have been curating ZOOM? What is it all about?
CA: I was invited by Jurgen Fritze, the organizer of ZOOM, to Hildeshiem, Germany. I was just then curating artists from South East Asia to his festival. It was great event in a small town. The performance space was an old church. The acoustic and natural daylight of the place were wonderful. There were a few Thai people living there and they came to make somtum or papaya salad for us everyday.

VN: What is your plan for Nan in particular and other cities in general like Bangkok or Korat or Chiangmai?
CA: When we first organized events like these, we always say that art is like a virus. It spreads through the air and it contaminates by touch. It is incurable. That’s what we are experiencing ever since. First, we do not want to control the art we organize. We would like to see it grow.

But we are not going to do everything that is out of our reach. The event in Korat and Chiangmai happened because of our friends who find an opportunity to do so. So, we support them and all the artists who join us each year. We hope someday they will be able to organize and curate events by themselves. Then we will work together. It is better than working alone or just in one area.

It is similar to Nan. For me, it is favorable because it is my hometown. There are local organizations that are willing to see possibilities of having art festivals in the provinces. So, what we did this year with you was our first try. The result is positive and now we are ready to go ahead with a slightly bigger event next year. Someday, I hope, we will be ready for an International Art Festival in my hometown in Nan.

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