Behind the Scenes at the DAM

5 Things You Can Learn from Video Artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook

Note: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s work is on display in Fuse Box until May 18. She also is the Logan Lecture speaker on Wednesday, April 9.

1. Art appreciation

What’s so great about the great paintings of art history? Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook posed this question when she presented large-scale reproductions of famous modernist paintings, such as Édouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (1862 – 1863), to groups of Thai farmers and villagers and asked participants to share their observations about the works. She captured the viewing sessions and resultant discussions on video, and has shown the videos around the world (and right here at the DAM) as part of a series called Two Planets (2008 – 2009). This series examines how people look at art, and deconstructs the cultural prominence of “masterpieces.”

2. How to commune with the dead

Before Araya started making art about people looking at art, she spent a lot of time with dead people. Specifically, she filmed herself talking with—even lecturing to—corpses. These absurdist videos raise questions about how we regard the dead and comprehend death.

3. Where East meets West

In a “post-racial,” globalized twenty-first-century art world in which an artist like Araya can live in Thailand, show and sell work at a gallery in New York, and lecture in Denver, it’s easy to think that visual culture has been standardized from Bangkok to Brooklyn. But Araya’s videos demonstrate that cultural awareness and aesthetic values remain diverse. For example, a video from her series Village and Elsewhere (2011) depicts a Thai Buddhist monk employing Dharmic principles to explain Artemisia Gentileschi’s Renaissance masterpiece Judith Beheading Holofernes (1612) and a 1988 Jeff Koons painting to a group of Thai townspeople and dogs.

4. What the contemporary art world looks like from Chiang Mai

While Araya earned advanced degrees in Braunschweig, Germany, and her work has been included in big-name exhibitions all over the world, such as the Istanbul Biennial (2003) and documenta 13 (2012), she has lived and worked in her native Thailand for decades. This makes her unique among contemporary art stars, many of whom spend their careers hopping between global cities like London and Berlin.

5. How to use cheese to train dogs

Araya lives with 15 stray dogs. No joke. When she isn’t making work, Araya watches TV with her dogs, and a few years ago she made a video that depicts her watching TV with two of them. She says cheese is important in getting her dogs to behave for the camera.

Zoe Larkins is the curatorial assistant for contemporary art at the DAM. She's excited for Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective to open on July 13. She says you shouldn't miss the three-dimensional maquettes that Wesselmann made as studies for his large sculptural works that will be in the show.