From 27 May to 24 July 2011 GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Bergamo is presenting the first solo show of the Thai artist Pratchaya Phinthong (1974, lives and works in Bangkok) to be held at an Italian museum.
The show, entitled Give More Than You Take, is part of the Eldorado exhibition series that the GAMeC has dedicated to the most interesting emerging artists on the international scene, who are invited to create a new project for the museum space.
The exhibition is being staged in collaboration with CAC – Centre d’art contemporain, Brétigny, where it was held between December 2010 and February 2011.
The project changes radically each time it is staged, in a charged dialogue between the artist’s intentions and the local setting. Thus, it constitutes a reflection on the concepts of economic value, empathy and global movements, and on the potential for art to transform these themes within a symbolic universe in perpetual motion.
The starting point was the invitation extended to the artist by CAC Brétigny for a two-month residency in the suburbs of Paris. However, Phinthong decided to spend this period in Swedish Lapland, getting himself hired by a Bangkok-based company specializing in the export of seasonal labour for the cloudberry harvest in the vast Nordic forests. He wanted to gain first-hand experience with a trend being brought to public attention by both the Thai and Swedish press, i.e. the exploitation of seasonal workers by Thai middlemen and Swedish businesses alike. Joining the labourers, the artist thus temporarily relinquished his status as an artist and put himself in the shoes of those who are forced to eke out a living, underscoring the crisis of a social model during the age of globalization.
At the end of each workday, Phinthong sent the curators a text message with the number of kilograms of cloudberries he had managed to pick, and they were asked to accumulate the exact same weight, but in objects from their local environments that no longer had any use value.
The ensuing work is entitled Tod tee sweden mend thung mor-chit (2010), which is the phonetic translation of Thai as used for karaoke to allow even those who do not speak the language to pronounce the verses of songs.
The artist asked to the exhibition curators to be directly responsible for the waste materials to be collected and how to organize them in the space.
In the case of the exhibition at GAMeC, the 549 kilograms of berries picked by the artist have been translated by Alessandro Rabottini into the equivalent amount of earth excavated for the foundation of the extension of the new Museum of the Carrara Academy, which is currently closed to the public for restoration and construction.
The title of the work on show, Allemansrätten (2010), refers to the “Right of Public Access” that is part of Swedish law, i.e. the possibility for anyone to cross public and private natural spaces and pick wild flowers or berries. This right is accompanied by the duty to protect nature and wild animals as well as private property, and it originally had the merit of transcending the concept of property in order to promote freedom of movement and activity in the territory. Today, however, it is also an instrument through which local entrepreneurs are transforming natural resources as part of an industrialization process. Allemansrätten draws on the title of the law and perpetuates a practice of physical and symbolic movement. Appropriating one of the sighting towers built by the hunters of Lapland, the artist transformed its function to change it into an observation point for fruit pickers.
One night, with the help of several nomadic pickers, the artist dismantled the tower and sent it to CAC Brétigny, asking the curator to present it to the public however he saw fit. The curator of the GAMeC exhibition was asked to do the same thing.
The Bergamo exhibition is completed by a series of works that were not at Brétigny but that nevertheless contextualize this project within a larger corpus of works.
One of the most noteworthy is An Average Thai Berry Picker’s Income (2010), which – as its title suggests – corresponds to the exact sum of Swedish kronor that Phinthong earned in two months, net of taxes. The bills and coins, which were framed, are equivalent to 283 euros.
The exhibition is part of a series in honour of Arturo Toffetti.
It has been staged with the support of:
gb agency, Paris
Curated by: Pierre Bal-Blanc and Alessandro Rabottini
A collaboration between: CAC – Centre d’art contemporain, Brétigny and GAMeC, Bergamo
Tue – Wed – Fri: 3 – 8 pm
Thu: 3 – 10 pm
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Sat – Sun: 10 am – 8 pm
FULL 4.00 euro
REDUCED 2.50 euro
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The ticket is valid for all the exhibitions on show.