Cities on the Move, Bangkok

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Project Description

Exhibition on East Asian Art and Architecture
throughout the City of Bangkok, 1999
Curatorial Concept by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hou Hanru
Scenography and Co-Curation by Ole Scheeren

Bangkok had no museum for contemporary art that could host a show like Cities on the Move. There were only a series of small private galleries, and – most importantly – the city itself as a reality of an Asian metropolitan condition. We decided that an exhibition on the Asian city could only be accommodated by the Asian city itself – not by any singular (interior) exhibition space. It was the city, with its buildings, its transport networks, its decay, its life and its people that became the actual content (or container) and the most essential part of the exhibition.

Its scenography forms a space-time construct, a simultaneous matrix of places and activities. Finite and infinite locations, movement, the spaces in-between, trajectories, random encounters, programmed events, artistic and commercial venues, urban fabric: Galleries, a shopping mall, a theatre, the train station, the sky train, the city square, tuk tuks and taxis, boats, the river, the robot and skeleton buildings, a cinema, a university… a new map of the city.

What follows is a text that describes the exhibition and its various typologies/spaces, as well as the city of Bangkok itself. The text uses the exhibition as a means to re-read the city and suggests a fictional approach that reverses the reading and re-interprets current issues and problems as potentials for a vision of the future…

2542

BANGKOK, CITY IN THE FUTURE
543 years later… the city of Bangkok is full of Robot-Buildings, Louis-XIV Towers and Skeletons of unfinished constructions. They seem to be the dominant typologies, vertical characters, the ones to survive the battle of urban growth and mutation. In-between: The city is floating again, rivers, flows everywhere, brutally-carefully carving out and filling in what is left around the buildings. Concrete substitutes of what was previously streams of water now lifted above the ground. A fluidum of vehicles – boats are cars are moving points are continuous lines. Gravity is finally overcome: Elevated highways. Skytrains. Express and walkways. Pipes and tubes. Never sure who dominates, the vertical or the horizontal, the concrete snake, biting off the corner of a tower, or the robot that forces the snake to twist in curves and curls at his appearance. Endless competition. Shapes – formal puritanism ultimately abandoned: Stepping and sliding, shifting and twisting, the rectangle and cube left only as component of complexifying geometries. In the middle: Skylobbies, promise of a better life, free of fume and dust. On top: If not the dome then the temple, re-occurrence in the shape of ears, eyes and horns overlooking the city. Historical reminiscence or technological personification. Unidentified Flying Objects just landed. Sourcers and dishes of urban comfort hovering above the ground. Ready for take-off: The city of the future…

Commerce Climates [Central Rama 3 shopping mall]
The final condition of the interior: climatization, air-conditioning. Size increases through control of temperature. Constructions grow beyond their possible recognition, no longer buildings, maybe rather atmospheres. Merging with the absolute destination of urban transaction: Shopping. Buy, or at least, be: just hanging out…
As water disappeared in the [naturally] horizontal condition, its revival was transferred to the vertical direction: Water curtains, now for decoration only. Maybe the last reminder of the tropicality and rain outside…

Motel Market [Silpakorn University art gallery]
Definitive model of short-term occupation of space, final abundance of fixed properties. Constant re-definition of inhabitation patterns. Exchange rhythms on a daily basis. The market as guard of the folkloristic-touristic ‘real’ experience finally vanished: Free for All, first come first served – anywhere and anyone and anything…

Zones of Congestion [Tadu Gallery]
Without any obvious reason for their existence, the sudden appearance of Zones of Congestion seems somewhat artificial, almost purposeful. Like an overcrowded book-shelve. Or as if the guy that controls the traffic lights just went for lunch…

Video Voids [National Gallery]
Space: emptiness. Content: information. Or stories. Sequences. Rays of light as only physical matter. Absorption of the image inside the void of sheer endless rooms…
Illumination – apart from flashing projections [and loud shining monuments outside], light at night is sparse: Only punctual appearances of colored fluorescent light brake the dark in vertical rhythms…

Niches of Privacy [Project 304 art gallery]
Withstanding the total adsorption of ‘public life’ inside the vacuum Commerce Climates, Niches of Privacy still blur the distinction between outside and inside. Almost unnoticeable they keep on developing their connections as micro social structures undermining the gigantic force of climactic implosion. The inside [or outside?] constructed with meticulous precision, the calibration of personal properties and their immediate [maybe even deliberate] superposition with one another: space as a tool of social negotiation…

Inner Cities [Silpakorn University architecture gallery]
Mobile strategies: It is no longer walls that are moving, or floors, it is buildings, structures, concepts, it is a whole city. The collection and accumulation of architectural and urbanistic projects from a worldwide context and their free dislocation and re-organization into a new hybrid organism triggers the idea of ultimate availability: a catalogue of global choices, a kit of generic conditions. We think a city…

Media-Positions [billboards, bus-stops, newspapers, internet…]
Spatial and non-spatial. The image in a fixed location within the urban context. And the appearance within a specific moment in time [as sheer availability]. The permanent and the temporal. The billboard and the newspaper. The poster. And television. Internet…
The color of the future is pink. Apart from pink, all that is left is black: Black copies [a good deal] of all imaginable material: computer, clothing, artworks. Even entire buildings are available as a duplicate…
Media are no longer looked at in search for information [content], but as realities in themselves, as relationships, as structures, containers of potentialities. Simultaneity of juxta- and super-Positions. A hybrid of absolute existence [virtuality] and specific inscription [real space]. Where one medium is no longer sufficient as container, the moving into [un]related territories promises immediate help and relief. Space. Scale. Time. Shift…

FilmCity [United Artists multiplex cinema and public spaces in Bangkok]
Film production. Film projection. Film perception. Film-Positions. FilmCity. Video city. Movie city. Cinema city. Experimental city. Filmed cities: Made in Asia, made in Japan, made in Hong Kong, made in Bangkok…

Process Spaces [About Café and Studio]
History written. Collected. Distorted. Instant history: written and re-written simultaneously. Ongoing transformations. No pre-clusion necessary, no conclusion desired. It might be the constant flux of time that transforms history into successions of realities. The gap between production and consumption. Delay. Overlay. Personified perceptions, of different scale and origin. Mixing and merging in multiple-Positions…

Construction Continuum [Siam Society]
Congestion is created within the belief of endless advancement. The intended optimization of flows creates its opposite. Never-ending conversion, and ultimate extension into sky, ground, adjacent patches of land. Densification. Fences, construction walls, protection barriers. Connections become disruptions. We built a city…

HYPER POTENTIALITY
Assuming that the Buddhist calendar in the year 2542 could merge with its western equivalent of 1999, the way to perceive Bangkok might need to be re-considered drastically: looked at as a model of the future rather than an accumulation of problems [traffic, pollution, etc], the city reveals a multi-layered structure of complexity and hyper potentiality.

PERMANENT PROVISIONAL CONDITION
Scaffoldings, skeletons. Half still structures, half already buildings, size-relationships render impossible the determination of status and use. Coming and going. Creating and decaying. Before the construction is finished, its conversion has already started. Is completely abandoned. Awaiting the next decision, assignment, function. Ready to go. As if it was already known before…

SIMULTANEITY
Co-existence of ultimate extremes. Seeming contradiction resolved within no-time. Building and re-building, connections and disruptions, distortion and merging, collaboration and competition, tension and suspension. Sense and no sense, colliding in simultaneous operation. The new and the old, progress and tradition, the street and the mall, the insentience and the highway, the river and the skyscraper. Speed turns points into lines…

MOTION HYBRIDS
The notion blurs between the movement of the spectator, and the movement of its surroundings, slowly it becomes inseparable, unidentifiable, if the body rushes through the city or if the buildings started moving themselves. The city has legs…
Ole Scheeren, 1999

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View Project Credits

Exhibition Team:


Curatorial Concept:

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hou Hanru

Scenography and Co-Curation:

Ole Scheeren

Visual Arts:

Thomas Nordanstad

Siam Society:

Albert Paraviwongchirachai

Institutional Support:

On the initiative of AFAA (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the overall guidance of the French Embassy in Thailand, ‘Cities on the Move Bangkok’ was organized by the Siam Society with the support and artistic contribution of the Asia Europe Foundation, in collaboration with European union member states and the European Commission

Graphic Production Team:

BugStudio (map)

Photographs Slide Show:


Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Armin Linke, Art4D, Ole Scheeren, and others