'Songs for dying / Songs for living' by Korakrit Arunanondchai interprets a personal loss

Bangkok-raised artist Korakrit Arunanondchai's recent performance-based video artworks were drawn from an intimate space of experiencing the death of his grandfather.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Apr 02, 2022

Korakrit Arunanondchai is a multimedia artist working between New York City and Bangkok. Born in 1986, Arunondchai was raised in Bangkok, Thailand. The artist engages with a range of media including video and installation, looking at human behaviours through an anthropological lens. He examines topics including but not limited to history and self-representation, expanding into philosophy, myth, consciousness and community. In a recent exhibition titled Songs for dying / Songs for living hosted by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich, curated by Heike Munder and Viktor Hömpler, the artist shared two recent video-based artworks, as well as a large format painting. Hömpler spoke with STIR about the curatorial process, working with the visionary artist, and thoughts on living and dying.

The exhibition was co-produced by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and Kunstverein in Hamburg. The video Songs for living was co-commissioned by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and Kunstverein in Hamburg with support from FACT, Liverpool. The exhibition showcased a focused spotlight on Songs For Dying and Songs For Living (both 2021), the latter being a new commission for the exhibition and a collaboration with artist Alex Gvojic. Hömpler says, “In multiple digital meetings, we discussed the possibilities of display and the exhibition’s atmosphere. Korakrit was already well acquainted with the space through earlier visits to Zurich. He proposed to build the art exhibition from three constructed rooms, three installations, that work as interconnected acts, each with their own characteristic atmosphere: two video installations connected by a painting-based installation in the middle. While the video installation Songs for living bathes you in blue-toned daylight, the video installation Songs for dying covers you in darkness amidst a room covered with earth. In the middle room you are surrounded by an incredibly large painting that spans three walls showing a gathering of bodies and a giant bird in flames. Music and sound play a big role for the exhibition. As a whole, the experience is very immersive”.

Korakrit Arunanondchai’s Songs for dying, 2021, a videostill | Korakrit Arunanondchai | Migros Museum | STIRworld
Korakrit Arunanondchai’s Songs for dying, 2021, a videostill Image: Courtesy of the artist; Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Bangkok; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; C L E A R I N G, New York/Brussels; Kukje Gallery, South Korea

The exhibition took on the immense task of representing the singular thought that keep us moving through life - death. Arunanondchai took on this larger-than-life idea, approaching it from the perspective of a personal experience of loss. From the intimate space of experiencing the death of his grandfather, Arunanondchai presented these two video installations by holding a sacred space for storytelling. His tales, although deeply personal, reverberated through the audience as a result of its omnipresent relevance. Hömpler shares, “Moments of being at the hospital, singing songs to his grandfather, as well as the days-long funeral process inspired him to deal with the process of dying. Both videos speak to processes of decomposition and renewal as well as new forms of existence, intertwining the personal loss with collective and political trauma but also stories of resistance and hope. As a viewer, you travel through these multi-layered stories and your experience is highly shaped through each room's atmosphere and the encompassing soundscapes. Being confronted with these meditations on life and death, can of course be very emotional and moving. At the same time, the work carries a lot of metaphysical, philosophical and mythical thought which is thought-provoking and intellectually stirring."

If we burn, you burn with us, 2021 a three-walled artwork by Arunanondchai | Korakrit Arunanondchai | Migros Museum | STIRworld
If we burn, you burn with us, 2021 a three-walled artwork Image: Courtesy the artist and Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Bangkok

Hömpler takes us deeper into the artist’s practice. He says, “Korakrit’s work focuses on the transformative potential of storytelling. With each project, he has been expanding a cosmos of interconnected stories told through video installations, paintings, objects, and performative works. All of his work processes experiences in his personal environment just as it does political events, history and questions of our crisis-ridden present." Arunanondchai’s work plays out in a profound and fluid manner, using sound and movement. His art is supplemented by elements of light and sound, which alchemise and lend a surreal and ephemeral quality. This refracts and multiplies when met with the acuteness of his subjects of choice.

An installation view of Songs for living, 2021 at Migros Museum | Korakrit Arunanondchai | Migros Museum | STIRworld
A view of the installation Songs for living, 2021 Image: Courtesy of Migros Museum and Stefan Altenbruger
An installation view of Songs for dying, 2021 at Migros Museum | Korakrit Arunanondchai | Migros Museum | STIRworld
A view of the installation Songs for dying, 2021 at Migros Museum Image: Courtesy of Migros Museum and Stefan Altenbruger

The curatorial assistant continued, “As mentioned, existential questions have always played a role in Korakrit’s work, but here they are really at the centre and Songs for dying can arguably be called his most personal work to date."

05 mins watch A video from the exhibition, Songs for dying / Song for living | Korakrit Arunanondchai | STIRworld
A video from the exhibition, Songs for dying / Song for living Video: Courtesy of Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst

The exhibition Songs for dying / Songs for living was on view at the Migros Museum in Zurich till January 09, 2022, and at the Kunstverein in Hamburg till March 13, 2022.

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