Thailand Biennale Krabi 2018: Where Art Meets Nature

Story By
Cita Arsita Farani

Staged on popular outdoor sites, the first Thailand Biennale invites visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery while exploring the wonders of art.

Running from 2 November 2018 until 28 February 2019, Thailand Biennale Krabi 2018 takes the theme of “Edge of the Wonderland”. Much like Krabi, where the Andaman Sea meets the land, edge in the context of wonderland is a pivotal point between the existent and the imagined, leading one’s curiosity and inspiring one to explore, venture and imagine. For this event, a total of 70 international and domestic artists were invited, and some collaborates with the local community to create their piece.

Set up in stark contrast against their natural backgrounds, it’s hard to miss most of the artworks. "Gilding the Border" by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, for example, has gold wrapped around a huge rock island by Phra Nang Cave Beach. "No Sunrise, No Sunset" by Kamin Lertchaiprasert & Suriya Umpansiriratan is a giant mirror tunnel hosting a sculpture of an elder lady. Meanwhile "Monuments for Solitude" by Leung Chi Wo depicts two phone booths with wood fossils located in Poda Island and Than Bok Khorani National Park, both no longer necessary despite it being the sign of civilization in the past.

Despite standing out, some artworks put up no resistances to the power of nature. “Rumors from the Sea” by Felix Blume, for instance, is built around an existing jetty, where bamboo sticks inserted with flutes play the sound of nature when the wind blows during the low tides. Yet the unpredictable waves reduces the number of installed bamboos and the artist simply said, “You can’t fight nature.” A short boat ride away from the mainland, the laid-back fishing village of Koh Klang is explorable with sarang, a special motorbike ride, and hosts several installations. “Elevated Sea Level” by Wang Wei actually wants to represent the unstable relationships between men and nature, and the crumbling mosaic tiles he laid down on a beach emphasizes the idea. Nearby, a fun take by Takafumi Fukasaka takes place on the “Football Field for Buffalo”, where an amphitheater and giant balls are set up to watch the hardworking buffaloes unwind in an imaginary match.

There are also those who choose a more subtle approach. Right by the Ao Nang Beach, “About the Hiding of the Giant Jellyfish” by Tran Luong hides in plain sight, replacing the base of roadside pavement blocks with foam mattress material, just like how transparent jellyfishes are hard to see. Only when you come in contact with them, or in this case, step on them, that you feel a sense of imbalance as if walking on the back of an enormous jellyfish. Another subtle experience is “Through the bones” by Jana Winderen. Collaborating with local fishermen at Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam mangrove forest, limited number of visitors are taken each day up river to a site normally inaccessible to tourists. When they arrive, they might wonder where is the art - as if the breathtaking scenery surrounding them is not beautiful enough. But here they are asked to stay quiet, press their ear to an oar and actually listen to the sound of corals, a method which the fishermen use to find the fishing spots.

Not only nature, some artists took inspirations from local stories and legends, including “Giant Ruins” by Tu Wei-cheng inside Khao Khanab Nam Caves which is a larger retelling of a human fossil discovered nearby, and “Anima” by Richard Streitmatter-Tran & Visarnsak Savangkaew, inspired by the mythologies of the half-bird, half-woman heroine Manohara in the Jataka tales, depicting figurine of goddesses inside several animal sculptures at the lush and serene Than Bok Khorani National Park. One legend which tells the story of a powerful naga or dragon also inspired “Phra - Nang” by Chusak Srikwan and the “Nagabi Transferry” by Yuree Kensaku, the latter which has been donated to the people of Krabi so they can be used to take visitors anytime, even after the biennale ends.

Vice Governor of Krabi Province, Somposh Chotechouchaung said that Krabi people has been living with art for a long time, which is the beautiful nature itself. He hopes that people who come to Krabi can take care of the art and nature like Krabi people do. Nothing last forever, so we should enjoy it while we can. “We want the art to stay in the mind of local people and the visitors,” he added.

With the biennale, Krabi is expecting 9 million visitors in 2018. To improve the accessibilities, public transportations are fairly priced and services are standardized, and visitors can report any violations. Information booths and volunteers are placed in strategic spots, while each artwork is accompanied with an information board, complete with a QR code you can scan to discover the story behind them. The biennale is clearly meant to be enjoyed as you experience Krabi itself, such is the nature of scattered locations throughout Krabi, many in sites popular among tourists. If you have visited Krabi before, you’ll notice the differences. But if you haven’t got the chance, now is the perfect first time.

photos by Cita Arsita Farani