“Every time Tee (a transgender woman won a transgender beauty competition) came to visit at our house, my heart would beat hard. I remember wishing to be beautiful like her. Every morning my mom would sit in front of her makeup table. I would lay on the floor looking at her while she put makeup on her face, little by little. It was such a beautiful moment.” — Arin Rungjang
Arin Rungjang, “Golden Teardrop”, 2013, installation view at the 55th Venice Biennale │Image courtesy of the artist and Venice Biennale
Arin Rungjang, a pioneer of Thai art who is good at using video to reveal the hidden reality. Through historical research, symbol and memory, and the exploration in how social, economic and political revolution influences personal life. In 2012, Rungjang’s work “Shooting an Elephant and The Leader” exhibited in Shanghai Biennale. The work represents the memories of two characters living in different generations in Myanmar — Hassan Belan, who was born in Myanmar with Thai-Bengali descent and sold to Thailand later, and the chapter of “Shooting an Elephant” written by George Orwell, an English novelist.
Arin Rungjang, “Golden Teardrop”, 2013, film still │Image courtesy of the artist
In 2013, Rungjang represented Thailand at the 55th Venice Biennale. His work “Golden Teardrop” reviewed Thailand history by thong yod, the traditional dessert. In 2019, his commission work “Ravisara” at the first Toronto Biennale explored the stories of six Thai female immigrants living in Germany during the post-colonial period.
The interaction among video, site-specific sculptural installation and audience
Video and installation are Rungjang’s creative medium, with the focus on showing the unknown history, and how the history interacts with the present in the place and context in which they are practiced. His purpose is not to convince the audience to trust what they see. It is rather like watching a movie, being shocked and infected by the picture.
Arin Rungjang, “Shooting an Elephant and The Leader”, 2018 │ Image courtesy of the artist and ShanghART Gallery
“Video work in art creation is different from film. People usually watch the full movie, even repeat it. But in the exhibition, the visitors have the freedom to decide whether to stay to appreciate the work or come visit the exhibition again. I can’t force them to stay at the exhibition. If no one actively understands the work, the message cannot be conveyed.”
The commission work “Welcome to My World, Tee”
“Welcome to My World, Tee” is one of the commission works in the exhibition “Spectrosynthesis II”. With his personal experience, Rungjang jointly completed the commission work with the transgender people in Berlin.
Arin Rungjang filming “Welcome to My World, Tee”, 2019, commissioned work for “Spectrosynthesis II” | Image courtesy of the artist
“Welcome to My World, Tee” is a five-channel video installation. The work was inspired by the fasciation and curiosity about a transgender person in Rungjang’s childhood. The title of the work comes from a radio programme that his mother often listens to when she is having make up. Rungiang sat on the floor and observed his mother how to put on makeup when he was young. The scent of cosmetics and the music on the radio compose the wonderful moments in Ringjang’s memory.
Arin Rungjang, “Welcome to My World, Tee”, 2019 │ Image courtesy of the artist and Sunpride Foundation
At the age of two and a half, after his father passed away, Rungjang was looked after by a retired neighbor when his mother left home for work in the daytime. His neighbour’s transgender daughter was the champion of beauty competition. Her beauty made Rungjang’s heartbeat fast, wishing he could be as beautiful as she was. And, Rungjang’s cognition of his sexuality came from another male neighbor during his childhood — the good feeling of being hugged, kissed and touched by this young handsome guy.