Critics’ Picks

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Morakot (Emerald), 2007, still from a color video with sound, 10 minutes 50 seconds.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Morakot (Emerald), 2007, still from a color video with sound, 10 minutes 50 seconds.


“Tomyam Pladib”

The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson House 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road
March 19–June 5, 2008

Organized by Gridthiya Gaweewong, founder of Project 304 and curator, with artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, of 2006’s beleaguered exhibition “Saigon Open City,” “Tomyam Pladib” brings together Thai artists who love Japan and vice versa. The title, inspired by a magazine column by Bangkok-based Japanese writer Ryota Suzuki, refers to an imaginary fusion of Thai spicy soup and Japanese sashimi. Luckily, the included artists resist such binary combinations.

A restaging of Tsuyoshi Ozawa’s Everyone Likes Someone as You Like Someone, 2008, spills across half the gallery with its delightful, “relational” futon mountain, within which kids are encouraged to deposit their personal drawings, playing on an abstract notion of exchange. Comic wunderkind Wisut Ponnimit, now a star in his adopted country of Japan, teams up with Vachiraporn Limviphuvadh on an interactive animation piece in which viewers must don minimalist clothing to play a lo-fi video game. Similarly evoking this sense of a cultural “second skin” are kimonos by textile artist Jarupatcha Achavasmit, who weaves traditional Thai ikat into Japanese designs. A set of familiar Yoshitomo Nara drawings and Morimura Yasumasa’s gender-bending, uncanny photographs, including a homage to Frida Kahlo, are perhaps most interesting for the clearly Thai names of collectors on the wall labels—unintentionally referencing how one country “collects” another, anywhere on the spectrum from fandom to colonization.

The literal jewel of the show is a new video installation by well-known film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Titled Morakot (Emerald), 2007, its slow interior shots of a defunct hotel are overlaid with ghostly voices and CGI dust motes, creating a strange, melancholy energy. The piece has little to do with Japan, but that’s part of the point: The simple juxtaposition expands and expands, just like Weerasethakul’s virtual dust, lighter than air but full of a complex history.