Consuming Thai Culture, or How Not to Bite the Hand That’s Feeding You
Thai food is one of Thailand’s most famous exports — a fact that Thailand’s Ministry of Culture must have well been aware of when they commissioned artists Arin Rungjang and Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch to present art tied to the government’s “Thailand: Kitchen to the World” campaign in this year’s Biennale.
Rungjang’s art delves into the history of the Thai “golden teardrop” dessert thong yod to reveal Thailand’s rich cross-cultural heritage; Supanichvoraparch’s “Poperomia” aspires to tease out the complexities of contemporary Thai culture by foregrounding aspects of its agricultural character.
The state-driven nature of both artworks gives us pause to ask: do these works problematize or support the often exoticized representations of Thailand that are globally consumed in mass culture? How do they reflect the contemporary class conflicts between the impoverished rural population and the economic elite that have underscored the recent massive political demonstrations in the country?
Whose hand is feeding Rungjang and Supanichvoraparch?May Ee Wong