Los Angeles – Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild) “Letters to Chantri” at The Mistake Room Through September 13th, 2014

August 19th, 2014

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving, Installation View at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Josh White/JW Pictures.
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving(Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Josh White/JW Pictures.

The Mistake Room re-opens for its second show with a newly commissioned project by Thai-artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, open through September 13. The renovations, which followed the inaugural Oscar Murillo exhibition , were led by Alfonso Medina, Director of Studio T38, re-designing the raw warehouse space into a formal gallery space.

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1 The lady at the door The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View)
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door / The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View), via Matthew Lax for Art Observed

Letters to Chantri #1: The Lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving is the first iteration of what Arunanonchai imagines to be a new, long-term project: a continuous series of exhibitions, each positioned around developing a new character that eventually will coalesce into an ensemble for Arunanonchai’s unmade feature film. The show is a mediated experience; only 50 visitors are allowed in the show at one time, guided through the 20 minute experience by performers in white uniforms. The opening itself required additional security, with hundreds of people packed into the small parking area, jostling to get in.

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Josh White/JW Pictures.
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving(Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Josh White/JW Pictures.

In an effort to grapple with the history of Thai history and Buddhist philosophies as they come into increasing contact with globalization and and Western Youth culture, the exhibition is largely structured around two non-linear videos. Upon entering the gallery, a narrow space with folding chairs face the first video, which serves as an introduction to the main event. Using outwardly religious and commercial sites in Thailand, the artist ritualizes consumption through a series of performative movements.

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door / The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View), via Matthew Lax for Art Observed
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door / The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View), via Matthew Lax for Art Observed

Once the video is complete, patrons are led into the second room, where they stumble upon a cold, almost futuristic marvel.  A large projection plays at the front of the space, beckoning the viewer through an en-masse staging of figures, flanked by two large scale paintings which appear in the video, as well as a supplementary fountain sculpture, which furthers the themes of cleansing promoted within the narrative. Walking through the mannequins, clad in the same white ensemble as all the performers, one is uncannily reminded of the militaristic compositions of Vanessa Beecroft’s work or China’s Terracota Army (210 BCE).

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Josh White/JW Pictures.
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving(Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Josh White/JW Pictures.

In the first piece, Arunanonchai and a few others in uniform carry the weight of a largely narrated experience, boychild, the gender-defying Californian performance artist who has achieved queer stardom in the past two years through a variety of music, fashion and art, becomes the archetypal hero of the main event. Arunanonchai and boychild met in January 2013, when they were both participating in a two-night performance series orchestrated by AA Bronson at the now defunct Parade Ground in New York City. Says boychild of the experience: “I perform Krit. I just acted. It’s ambiguous but it was less collaborative than your usual performance work. It’s film in an art context. It’s exciting. I’m moved by it, actually. Experiencing an installation in a space like this is new for me in Los Angeles.”

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door / The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View), via Matthew Lax for Art Observed
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door / The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View), via Matthew Lax for Art Observed

In the visual signifiers of “lifestyle branding,” the video climaxes in a visit to Joshua Tree, and bears a strange parallel to the utopian iconography of pop , among them Michael Jackson’s 1985 charity single, “We Are the World.”  Smiling performers bring boychild’s character to spiritual revelation atop the desert mountain. The work bears a striking reminder of Susan Sontag’s essay Notes on Camp (1964): “genuine camp,” she writes, camp which is not entirely aware of its own sensibility, and which doesn’t necessarily rely on a historical narrative or self-reference, is more gratifying because it takes itself seriously.  Observing Arunanonchai’s installation here, one is not sure whether the work is meant to be entirely sincere, but that distinction sits the crux of  fashion (a genre which the artist has drawn liberally from in the past), for even if one does not subscribe to the values of a particular company or brand, a good commercial set to the right music will have everyone dancing in the end.

Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Peter Kirby.
Korakrit Arunanondchai (feat. boychild), Letters to Chantri #1: The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving (Installation View) at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, 2014. Photo Credit: Peter Kirby.

— M.S. Lax

Read more:
Korakrit Arunanondchai at The Mistake Room [Exhibition Site]