Pan Daijing, Uncut, 2022. Performance view, Ghost 2565, Bangkok Dock, Bangkok, October 29, 2022. Alin Charuamonchit. Photo: Kanrapee Chokpaiboon.

Pan Daijing, Uncut, 2022. Performance view, Ghost 2565, Bangkok Dock, Bangkok, October 29, 2022. Alin Charuamonchit. Photo: Kanrapee Chokpaiboon.

Ghost 2565: “Live Without Dead Time”

Various Venues

The title of this year’s Ghost, the video and performance triennial founded by artist Korakrit Arunanondchai and gallerist Akapol Op Sudasna, was Ghost 2565: “Live Without Dead Time,” its subtitle citing graffiti from the May 1968 Paris uprising, a call to revolt against the pacifying effects of consumerism. Curated by Christina Li, this edition took place in a city awakening from its Covid-19 slump. The triennial conjured a radical spirit of time and change, presenting events and exhibitions that connected and invigorated distant venues and sites. In prompting viewers to travel throughout the dense urban patchwork of Bangkok (using the city’s newly expanded public transportation system), the triennial provided them with opportunities to discover (or rediscover) far-flung neighborhoods while also exploring the fancy environs of the recently revamped Jim Thompson Art Center.

But Li’s central concern with what she calls “the homogenizing forces of progress”—the phrase an indirect nod to an authoritarian government’s ongoing gentrification campaigns—imbued many of the interventions with melancholy, casting them as elegies to time passing. Bangkok- and Berlin-based Orawan Arunrak organized Rituals on Walking, 2022, a recorded street tour that began at Hua Lamphong central train station, an edifice dating to the turn of the past century that was about to be decommissioned, leaving the surrounding area to face an uncertain future. Arunrak’s parents met as food sellers in the station while traveling between the capital and Thailand’s impoverished northeast, eventually settling nearby. As one wandered from a busy public arena to quiet, domestic streets, the artist’s commentary entwined musings on belonging and the rural/urban divide with lyrical accounts of memories of sounds, scents, and foods.

Artist and composer Pan Daijing enlivened Bangkok Dock by inviting hundreds of viewers to an enormous old warehouse whose dilapidation became all the more apparent thanks to its proximity to some of the world’s most famous chain hotels. In Daijing’s balletic performance Uncut, 2022, five figures moved through the space at dusk, accompanied by a techno beat and a lone lightbulb hanging from the stuttering haulage system overhead. As the performers themselves disappeared into the eventual darkness, viewers were left with the lasting impression of feeling tiny within the giant industrial context, and with a sense of old technology’s precarity.

The sprawling and disused World Travel Service building, home to Thailand’s first travel agency, could have functioned as a leitmotif for Ghost 2565 as a whole—that is, by pointing to the specific economic damage that Covid-19 caused while also highlighting the eerie ambivalences of time stalled and time passing. This impression was reinforced by the slickness of video installations by Wu Tsang at Bangkok CityCity and James Richards at Jim Thompson Art Center. Also supporting the event was an anthology of writings, billed as “reclaiming disinherited times and spaces,” including texts by some of the artists as well as by critic Travis Jeppesen and novelist Uthis Haemamool. At the old travel agency, Özgür Kar sliced an abandoned room with large monitors; the artist’s work Death, 2021, showed an animated skeleton perennially kept alive and speaking banalities such as, “Life is just content now.” Nearby, Emily Wardill’s video installation Night for Day, 2020, discussed Marxist materialism and other intellectual contexts for thinking through reality. Beyond Wardill’s theoretical abstractions, a talk by author Philip Cornwel-Smith grounded the triennial’s critical implications: Bangkok’s famously diverse urbanism was maintained historically by different political interests shaping a variety of ethnic, social, and economic enclaves. The city is now moving toward something altogether more indistinct, pushed by allegedly unstoppable forces both external and internal. Art events such as Ghost 2565 might point to the physical and ethereal dimensions of change but may also prompt us to wonder about those people or communities who will experience the greatest sense of loss.