Artist Kawita Vatanajyankur To Exploit Exploitation At The 58th Venice Biennale
The international art scene is peaking at this time of year with events like the Frieze Art Fair in New York and La Biennale di Venezia taking place. While Thai artists like Apichatpong have been in the eyes of international curators for a very long time, there are newer faces from the nation gaining prominence on the global stage and Kawita Vatanajyankur is one of them.
Having showcased her works in prestigious institutions such as Saatchi in London and many others in Asia, USA, Australia and Europe, Kawita is now in Venice to inaugurate InParadio 3030, the Concilio Europeo dell’Arte‘s new gallery, as well as exhibit in the Venice Biennale 2019.
Thailand Tatler caught up with the performance artist before her flight to Italy, for a chat about her latest piece and its powerful message.
Tell us about your involvement in the 58th Venice Biennale?
I was invited by InParadiso to exhibit in the 57th Venice Biennale, which was two years ago. I received a lot of positive feedback then and was invited back once again. I will be doing a solo show this time called Performing Textiles. It exposes the behind-the-scenes of labourers in the textile and fast fashion industry. There will be six video works: Spinning Wheel, Dye, Shuttle, Untangled, Print and Knit. In each of them, I use my body as tools that are used in the textile industry.
What is the message behind Performing Textiles?
Eighty-two to 85 per cent of the workers in the fashion industry or textile factories are women, and these women are being exploited. The media gives us the illusion that we are valued when we are physically beautiful. It gives us the feeling that we’re not good enough and to feel better we have to consume more materials. But because trends change all the time, there is this endless loop of desire that creates high demand throughout the world. What we don't realise is how much work is put into creating these materials.
Why do you use your body to convey this?
I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be a feminist and that I don't look like a feminist because I look too gentle. Even if I were born male, I would still use my body. It wouldn’t change the meaning of a feminist. Feminism is not about gender. It's about fighting for equality. It is important for us to remember that me using my female body does not mean that I only talk about females. Another reason I use my body is that I want to feel the intensity, the pressure that happens to the labourers behind closed doors. It is important for me to know at least a tiny bit of how they would feel so that I can convey to others what it feels like to be a machine, to be used as a tool—dehumanised.
What ignited this flame within you?
My dad worked very, very hard because he believed that fame was very important. But then he passed away from overworking. That's when I started to question what success really means. Does money and fame really bring us happiness? I asked a lot of questions because I was grieving. As I mentioned before, I feel like I’m always being told by social media that I’m not up to standards. I was always chasing that standard. All of us as consumers have to realise that it is our responsibility to solve the problems of labour exploitation because we are exploiting them. We also to ask if we are exploiting ourselves too.
So how do we solve the problem?
I believe in equality for all, and I believe that it is absolutely not about one’s looks. It is about being strong from the inside. Being able to change society for the better is the key to being a feminist. As an artist, I am always thinking of what I should do or say to make my voice stronger.
Kawita’s videos will be showcased at InParadiso 3030 in Venice, Italy from May 9 until June 30, 2019. For more information, concilioeuropeodellarte.org.
See also: Kawita Vatanajyankur Strikes Bangkok Again With A Piece To Accompany Your Afternoon Tea