An ongoing exhibition at the Jim Thompson Art Center, TRANSMISSION explores the relationship between cultural heritage and contemporary art. The exhibition takes as its starting point a storied collection of art and artefacts, that of the Jim Thompson Thai House and Museum, a collection almost synonymous with Thai heritage thanks to the museum’s preservation and promotion of Thai culture, old and new. But like other important Thai collections, most of its contents are actually older than Thailand – certainly, older than the modern nation-state inaugurated in the 1930s. Speaking to us frompre-modern and pre-national times, what is the place to which it refers? Taking in centuries of cultural exchange and an area now spanning many countries, what the museum assembles and displays is also a collection of regional art.
Offering a glimpse into Thailand’s pre-national unconscious through the looking glass of contemporary art, the exhibition features seven contemporary artists from Thailand and Southeast Asia responding to the Jim Thompson collection in their own terms. Their works show that the past is not just an inspiration, but a challenge, that ‘tradition’ is not just an inheritance of forms and techniques, but a live process of translation and adaptation that is integral to the experience of modernity. The exhibition suggests that ‘heritage’ offers much more than a sense of identity, but also conceptual, spiritual and practical knowledge – renewable resources for thinking, feeling and making.
Through new and recent creations in a wide variety of media – from woodwork and painting to video and sound installation – the exhibition raises the question of how knowledge is transmitted, between people and between peoples. How does a culture reach across time and space? What makes it rigid or adaptable? Why do some cultures thrive, while others fade away?
Jim Thompson Art Center
6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Rd., Wang Mai, Pathumwan| 02-612-6741| jimthompsonartcenter.org