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Korakrit Arunanondchai & Alex Gvojic, Songs for living, 2021 (stillbild ur film) © Korakrit Arunanondchai Courtesy of the artists and Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Bangkok; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; C L E A R I N G, New York/Brussels; Kukje Gallery, Seoul/Busan
Korakrit Arunanondchai
From dying to living

17 September 2022–9 April 2023
Curator: Lena Essling

What brings us together and what divides us? Gatherings, both ritualistic and political, are at the core of Korakrit Arunanondchai’s work. In this exhibition the celebrated artist explores the threshold between life and death, as a space where new possibilities can be imagined, involving the individual and the collective. On show are a number of new works in immersive settings, by an artist who can rightly call himself a storyteller.

Korakrit Arunanondchai was born in Bangkok in 1986, but after studying in the USA, he now divides his time between the city of his birth and New York. His distinctive combination of various mediums and techniques as well as his collaborative practice have attracted international attention during recent years.

The fluidity of categories
Dualities – life and death, past and present, dream and reality, fiction and documentary, reflection and rapture, man and machine, individualism and interconnectedness – and the shifting boundaries between these polarities are recurring themes in the work of Arunanondchai. And, in similar fashion, he alludes to the fluidity of categories such as nationality, language, gender and generation.

Arunanondchai’s art is a hybridised form of documentary, film, installation, performance, painting and sculpture in large-scale settings that make use of sound, light and darkness. Paintings expand into murals; video projections reflect onto water and sweep across the room. His productions evolve horizontally in serial projects, where every idea, each individual expression unfurls seamlessly into the next, regardless of material and medium.

“Like a ghost waiting to inhabit and possess the next body, whether that body is alive or not,” is how Arunanondchai describes the process.

The sources from which Arunanondchai draws his ideas include political conflicts within contemporary Thailand, entangled with belief systems and propaganda from the era of the Cold War in South-East Asia. Animism, natural sciences and philosophy play an important role along with poetry and different modes of storytelling. The artist also weaves experiences from his own life and family
relationships into his material in a way that dissolves the hierarchies and blurs the boundaries between the personal, the spiritual and the geopolitical.

New work for the Moderna Museet exhibition
In a specific undertaking for Moderna Museet the artist explores the threshold between the world of form and the realm of formlessness in a new artwork “From dying to living”.

This project is based on two video works that constitute each other’s direct antithesis in the exhibition. “Songs for dying” (2021) conflates 2020’s violent popular protests for democratic reform in Thailand with a massacre committed in South Korea in the shadow of the Cold War in 1948. However, the artist’s own personal farewell to his grandfather serves as the link that binds these two narratives together in an intimate connection.

“Songs for living” (2021) raises questions about affinity and reconciliation with a higher power, in a narrative underpinned by songs and words borrowed from French poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant, Polish author and Nobel Prize laureate Czesław Miłosz, and French philosopher, mystic and activist Simone Weil.

The power of storytelling
Of film as a medium and a memory, Korakrit Arunanondchai says:

“As the author I exist in between the image and the audience, in the air of the room, telling the story. I am never completely inside one world or another.”

The artist’s video works are interlaced with links to the primeval art of storytelling, where the tale being told and the location of its telling have the power to transform the collective mind and change our human understanding of existence.

Interspersed into the works are ghosts, which here serve as a metaphor for repressed trauma and suppressed memories from the past. The artist takes on the role of shaman, our guide in the transition between past and present, life and death.

Arunanondchai’s work raises questions, not only from the perspective of a ritualistic worldview, but also in terms of our own time’s awareness of the dramatic impact that humankind is having on climate and the environment. All sentient beings and every occurrence in the universe are inextricably linked and mutually dependent on one another.

Frequent collaborators – the filmmaker Alex Gvojic, performance artist Tosh Basco, musicians Aaron David Ross and others – slip in and out of Arunanondchai’s storytelling.

“The collaboration and the process of making and unmaking are as important as the finished work itself,” he says.

Short biography
Korakrit Arunanondchai (born in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1986) lives and works in New York and Bangkok. Raised in Thailand, he moved to study in the USA at the Rhode Island School of Design (2009) and Columbia University (2012). His most recent solo exhibitions have been at the Migros Museum for Contemporary Art in Zürich (2022), Kunsthall Trondheim (2021), Serralves Museum in Porto (2020), the Secession in Vienna (2019), and Kasseler Kunstverein, Kassel (2018). His work has also been presented as part of numerous group exhibitions, and at biennales and festivals, including Mountain/Time at Aspen Art Museum (2022), the Gwangju Biennale (2021), the Yokohama Triennale (2020), and the Venice and Whitney Biennales (2019).

About the exhibition catalogue
An illustrated catalogue has been produced to accompany the exhibition, with texts by Lena Essling, writer and researcher Hiji Nam and the artist and poet Precious Okoyomon. The catalogue has been designed by BankerWessel and is published in collaboration with Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König.

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