River City Bangkok: ‘Naked’ by Chaowut Cholchalathan
The exhibition, which challenges viewers to ask themselves profound questions about life, runs until Jan. 16, 2022 at River City Bangkok.
In our hectic everyday lives, we spend most of our time thinking about business, worrying about money and daydreaming about a future that hasn’t yet arrived. Have we ever taken the time to pause, ponder and ask ourselves this simple question?
“What exactly is human life?”
When Chaowut Cholchalathan was a teenager, he had the opportunity to see an exhibition of real corpses that revealed the layers of muscles, organs and internal system processes. He was intrigued by the aesthetics of anatomy, but he began to wonder about the body’s deterioration and metamorphosis. He also raised questions about human existence, such as “What exactly is human life?” “The body, ideas, memories, and perceptions… Is this really what it means to be a human being?” and “Will our identity still exist if those things perish?”
Those questions motivated Chaowut to seek answers from diverse realms of science, philosophy and religion. As the years passed, life experience and thought crystallisation led Chaowut to answer that, indeed, the end of all things is nothing. “Anatta” means there is no unchanging, no permanent self or soul in living beings and no lasting essence, according to Buddhism.
Chaowut’s “Naked” exhibition challenges viewers to question the closest thing to us—life—through a five-step journey that will bring them to investigate the unavoidable truth that all existences must face, which is deterioration at the level of identity, skin, muscle, bone and abstraction.
Inside the exhibition, portraits and anatomy of both people and animals are shown to emphasise the equality of all creatures. Minerals and abstract shapes are incorporated into the artworks to symbolise the decay of organisms that have become minerals and the origins of life. It cycles back and forth into a birth-and-death cycle. Chaowut’s artworks mix painting, sculpture and handicrafts with a variety of printing innovations, a method he has mastered that has won international competition to create one-of-a-kind artworks and a brand-new realm for viewers to explore.
As visitors enter the exhibition, Chaowut invites them to leave the frenetic world outside and have a conversation with themselves. Perhaps guests will think of a “question” that they have never considered before and come across an “answer” that one did not expect, and it could be the response that changes one’s perspective on life.