Art and Community – The Perception of Cultural Objects

Above : The final outcome of the project – a documentary video.

dvd cover

Above : The project DVD cover picture. This DVD includes all the documents, both photography and the documentary video from Stanford and Thai participants


‘The perception of cultural Objects’ was an art project, first created for the Stanford-Thai exchange program (STEP). The project has been operated at Stanford University, and was continued as the reverse project in Thailand the next year for the ‘Art and Community’ subject of Mixed Media department, Silpakorn University.

Stanford University has many racial groups, such as African American, Asian, White, Hispanic, Native American, and International students. With the information I had, multicultural experiences can increase creativity, and do so in more than one way. Their variety of students’ background inspired me to create an art project, which focuses on the interaction of different cultures, by using Thai jewelry as a subject. Even though, a piece of jewelry in one culture can resemble others in other cultures, but the design of form, shape, color, and function of jewelry from a certain country when presented in another country can cause a misunderstanding, curiousness as well as interest. This idea fascinates me on how students in Stanford will interact with Thai jewelry used as part of national dancing costume, and how they will use or wear it. I expected that participants and I will not only know about the aesthetic of art, but also understand real cultures. Importantly, I view this exchange of art and cultural activity as an opening door for Thai culture, and for me to connect with real people, and their lives.

The process of my project, The Perception of Cultural Objects, was divided in two steps. First, I asked the participants to wear Thai jewelry and gave no clue of how to wear it in a correct way. Participants could have that piece and had a few days to create new ways of wearing it. I asked them to take a photo of themselves with the jewelry and send it to me or gave me their results in any format. Second, I analyzed the results I received in order to create an artwork. For the whole process, I am a jewelry introducer, receiver, and creator.

jew1When I came back to Thailand, the Mixed Media major assigned their students to work on a specific subject called, Art and Community, for a semester. The students must create an individual project of art that can infiltrate into an actual community of their interest. The community choices can be an actual village, town, institution, or student club. I saw this as a great challenge to accomplish my art project I did at Stanford University. I chose to work on the jewelry maker village named Wat Taypakorn, where I have bought Thai jewelry to USA at the beginning.

The Perception of Cultural Objects in this version has a purpose to provide insight into what change may bring in a positive aspect, and that change is not something that we should fear, but welcome with an open mind. Many traditional Thai arts, crafts, and plays have been developed over a long period of time. However, at this modern time, most of the pieces are protected from outside influences, which may have an effect on their original design. On occasion, there has been opposition to any such influences that have tried to affect these symbolic objects. Even when there was a good cause, these influences were met with protest and adversity.

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During this project, I induced the villagers to participate in the projects by showing them the Stanford’s result, and some Thai opposition news we have heard. I created various forms that were reduced from Thai traditional dance jewelry design, but still kept the shiny gold color on them. The participants had to interpret what they were, and wore them. After that, I asked the participants to discuss and express their opinions upon these issues within society. The project had expanded to include other people outside Wat Taypakorn village, but related in this traditional matters issue, like Thai dance teachers and students, and Thai art history faculties. The reactions of the participants who were given an example of the alternative designs of Thai Jewelry were carefully photographed and documented.

The final outcome was a documentary video that looks like a live TV program, but could be played as a loop video. I expected that this art project could give some positive view on the creative change of Thai traditional arts. However, the video does not have a solid conclusion, and clearly does not indicate what is a correct, as the audiences should have their own consideration.


The results of Stanford, and Thai participants

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