Korakrit Arunanondchai is one of the most mind refreshing young artists working in New York City at this moment. With an impeccable artistic formation and a growing exhibition perspective he is exploring an audacious connection between his Thai roots, and his career as a Western artist. In his works the boundaries of perception are blurred and difussed and experience is highlighted as a path between and beyond cultures.
Can you tell me a little about your influences and education?
I remember working when I was younger in MS Paint, and then doing some stuff in Photoshop before I came to America to study at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the beginning, I wanted to do graphic design and then I started painting, but I did it in a way that would have similar protocols as the computer programs I had worked with, working with layers and so on. And then later, many of these pictures became what you could do in Photoshop as an analogy. For example, in my _History Paintings_, it’s like in Photoshop where you can see the history, the previous actions.
Is that something you are looking for, the fact that the pictures are perceived or experienced in different media, online, in a video, in an installation...?
I think so. I have been doing two types of shows: the gallery installations and the pieces for institutions. All the content of the show has another life online. I am trying to make work for both audiences, the one in Thailand who won’t get to see the show and the one in New York that will get to see the show. But I want the work to be experienced differently.
If you go to the website it’s confusing to understand what the show really is. Online there is a flattening of information where everything is equal but, for example, when you go to the show, the whole show is filled with smoke and you can’t feel that. I consider the whole gallery as an installation.
What drives you do this work, to be more engaged with your audience in Thailand?
I think my work changed a lot when I went to Columbia. I had a shift when I finished my MFA. There is a subject called 'Comparative Modernism' where we studied how Modernism grows in a country and how it develops in every country in parallel, and not necessarily compared to the Western notion of Modernism. There is a point when Buddhism in my country was connected to Modernism and from then the idea of modern was defined by this actualized reading of Buddhism.
In the past I used to want a work that would work here, and there, but differently, but now I think I even want to do separate and specific work for Thailand and America.
How would it be different?
This is a discussion I was having with my friend last night. I had this show "Painting With History In A Room Filled With Men With Funny Names" where I talk about joining a legion of male painters, as an analogy of my personal history when I joined a Christian boarding school where everyone was Buddhist. I built this work as a combination of personal bend, personal subjectivity and postcolonial politics—you know, the white man painter—and then a good amount of pleasurable, formal, tasteful arrangements. My friend was telling me that the show was set up to succeed, so the audience comes and gets it and they are on my side with the good politics and all, and say: Good Job!
And it’s interesting for me because I think the shows that really change people are the ones where people don’t necessarily get it and then three shows later they do. And there are artists that at first you hate and, after a few shows, your perception of their work changes because they have adapted to the artist's point of view. And that requires a partially antagonistic point towards the viewer.
Specifically for Thai audiences, I really wanted to make a show where people would be on the same page. There I want the work to be almost didactic and sort of. Succeed, where here I don’t necessarily want to succeed, you know what I mean?
You think you can control that reaction of the public?
I don’t think like decide completely but I am trying to go with this setup. I think about a goal and then I go from point A to B and then I see a clear path where everything comes together.
I am going to do a couple of more shows in the fall: one in Kansas City and one in Milan, and I really like the idea of series. I am revisiting my old work and reprocessing it. I am trying to figure out how to continue this series trying to make it harder in a way.
What are you working on right now?
There is this temple in Thailand with millions of followers, the Dharmakāya movement, and they have this video lecture about what happened with Steve jobs after he died. Where did he go after he died and why he got cancer. The temple, visually, is really extreme.
Since it came out, I wanted to write a screenplay and then make a feature film based on this. To think about Steve Jobs and Apple and how that connects and in a way opposes to Buddhism is very interesting to me. So the idea is making a kind of a road movie where these three girls are coming to America and then meet a guy who resembles Steve Jobs. Along the way, they meet a lot of surrogates of Jobs that kind of lead them to him and finally, the lead character meets them at the Spiral Jetty.
The whole video is linear but with a lot of flashbacks, like in the TV series "Lost". And I am kind of working on installation pieces which will become or feed the material for the flashbacks. But at the same time they are projects in themselves.
Do you have the whole script connected, at least in your mind?
I am working on it for the next two years. Before I do this I need to do a lot of research about the temple and have interviews with members of this movement. I am planning little by little by little and it’s probably better to let it grow organically, as I grow myself.
Interview has been edited and condensed, originally appearing in Tunica.