Thailand's Creative Industry Chimes In On Where Technology Is Taking Art
Linda Cheng, River City Bangkok
Increasingly across the globe we are witnessing a tech-driven shift that aims to augment the ways in which we experience art. Are traditional museum visits and standing in front of an original chef d’eouvre admiring the artist’s brush strokes becoming a thing of the past? For Linda Cheng, managing director of River City Bangkok gallery, combining technological innovations with art exhibitions isn’t just about adapting to a rapidly changing world but also about enhancing the accessibility of art to a wider mass of people.
“Our recent From Monet to Kandinsky and Italian Renaissance multimedia exhibitions were a great success,” she says. An immersive and revolutionary form of art display that brought together high definition projection and surround-sound systems, in the Monet to Kandinsky exhibition visitors were invited to admire the works of 10 remarkable masters of modernism: Claude Monet, Paul Gaugin, Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Georges Seurat, Paul Cezanne, Juan Gris, Robert Delaunay, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. The exhibition consisted of short films projected across several screens in a large multimedia room. Though it might be hard to imagine historical landmarks such the Louvre or Tate adopting this technology, River City Bangkok and others have embraced it with open arms.
Initiated in Berlin Germany, it took around two years to prepare and launch the From Monet to Kandinsky exhibition in Thailand. “From Monet to Kandinsky features 15,000 pieces from 20 museums around the world,” Cheng explains. “If you wanted to see them all, this would entail having the financial means to travel the globe. The vast majority of people are not in a position to do so. Nor do they have the time.”
Traditionalists might oppose the idea of projecting classic artworks on screen and turning them into moving images but for many there are undeniable perks. One could argue that in this case, technology helps to break physical barriers while connecting people to an entire world of art that would otherwise remain unknown. This is a fun, interactive way to display art but there is also a strong educational aspect to it.
“This kind of exhibition is a tool to introduce people to art and educate particularly the younger generations who are already so tech-savvy. This is what we strive to do here,” says Cheng.
The movement and deconstruction of the pieces certainly helps viewers to get an in-depth feel for how each painting is created step by step.
“I want to create a place where people can come and always feel enriched, where they can feed their soul,” Cheng adds. “Frankly I think the contribution of technology to art is limitless. And I believe it will develop further with time and become even more immersive.”
Originally from Taiwan, she has lived in Thailand for the past three decades and has come to love the country. Since she joined River City, she has focussed on making it an art hub, expanding the number of galleries and activities at the centre. As well as ensuring River City Bangkok becomes an innovator in the display of art, Cheng also wants it to serve as a platform that supports local artists. She tells us art enthusiasts can expect more exciting River City events next year.
Amata Luphaiboon, Department of Architecture
Technology has significantly altered the architecture industry. Gone are the days where everything was drawn by hand. Categorising himself as an old school architect, Amata Luphaiboon, co-founder of the firm Department of Architecture, has witnessed first-hand how the adoption of technology has changed things—for the better. There are now new boundaries where architecture can be produced through the writing of algorithms and software.
Today, most architectural work involves computational designs made possible with the help of cutting-edge software.
“To be honest, it is my younger employees who are experts with the various programmes we use,” says the Harvard graduate. “These computer tools help us both in terms of the design process and the end result.”
The examples he gives are Rhinoceros, a 3D modelling software specifically for architecture and industrial design, and 3D Max, which facilitates 3D massing.
“We also have a very useful programme called Grasshopper, which assists in creating very three dimensional organic forms. I think the most obvious advantage such technology brings is in time saving,” Amata says. “Before, we would have to draw everything by hand and colour it in page by page. One page could easily take a week to complete.”
In terms of design models, 3D printing machines also come in handy with determining surfaces and certain shapes that can be hard to achieve by hand. But while Amata speaks enthusiastically about the perks of technology, he is also quick to point out that no matter how advanced, it hasn’t replaced humans yet. “I think the starting process is still the same as it was 100 years ago,” he says. “It all begins with people, creativity and emotions that AI cannot generate. Here we still sketch something which is then supported by tech. I’m part of the older generation so anything coming from me will still be in sketch form,” he laughs.
Thailand still lags behind other parts of the world when it comes to constructing these architectural designs. “The end product still has limitations due not only to budgets but also the fact that Thailand is still a very labour intensive place when it comes to construction,” says Amata. “Hopefully in the future, technology will not only be focused on the design process but also the construction and fabrication of certain materials.”
With 80 per cent of Department of Architecture’s projects for overseas clients, Amata says he also hopes to take on more local work in the future. As for now, he says the one useful thing his office needs is a 3D printing machine. “I would love to have one, but they generate too much exhaust and noise for a rented office space like ours,” he laughs.
Amata says he has been to River City Bangkok twice now and has stayed for hours admiring its multimedia exhibitions. Much like Linda Cheng, he thinks using technology to create multimedia showcases is a great stepping stone for larger groups of people to learn about art and experience a world that might otherwise be inaccessible.
Vasin Thepsoparn, Artivive Thailand
In the world of digital art, another noteworthy invention that is growing in popularity is augmented reality or AR, where the real world is enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information creating an interactive experience that can bring art as we know it to life. This is at the heart of Artivive, an AR platform originally founded in Vienna Austria by Codin Popescu and Sergiu Ardelean in 2017.
A lover of both technology and art, Vasin Thepsoparn, or Tom, CEO of Artivive Thailand, quickly saw an opportunity to establish the company here in light of the country’s growing tech scene and increase in art appreciation. Having officially opened six months ago, Tom says it hasn’t all been plain sailing. “The first two months were rough. When people do not know or understand the work you do, it takes time to raise awareness.”
Imagine a small postcard depicting an image or a painting in your hand. With the use of this Artivive application, the technology creates new dimensions—linking classical forms of art with digital art, sometimes, in layers. User friendly and swift, Artivive enables you to experience and interact in an innovative way with art.
Art is subjective and sometimes it is difficult to truly understand the message that the artist is trying to convey. “With applications like Artivive, we are able to bridge the gap between artists, curators and art consumers,” says the CEO. “I regularly conduct workshops with professors from the Fine Art department at Silpakorn University to help the younger generation better understand this. I want to complete the entire eco-system and not just have an impact on those who like art technology. I am trying to expand my frame of work and not limit what we do to museums and galleries but also mural paintings like the ones in Lhong. I really believe digital art can penetrate any industry. If you look at Japan and China, many magazines are already incorporating AR into their content.”
Technologies as such are a great tool for artists looking to differentiate themselves and better communicate with the audience by engendering a new kind of narrative. User friendly and creative, Artivive is sure to gain in popularity in Thailand and rapidly.
Much like our other interviewees, Tom who now works with several galleries and artists, is an advocate for the increasing inclusion of tech innovation in the world of art. He also highlights its benefits for education, which is something he is keen to contribute to. Advancements in technology, no matter the field or industry, should serve a bigger purpose as useful tools for society. “I am looking to work on an augmented reality book for children to enhance their learning experience,” he says. Is there such a thing as too much tech though? “For me, there’s beauty in diversity,” he replies. “It’s important to always keep an open mind. Art is subjective and there are no hard and fast rules.”
Nuntawat Jarusruangnil, Eyedropper Fill
Founded in 2008, Eyedropper Fill is a multimedia design company whose portfolio includes noteworthy work for prestigious brands such as Mercedes Benz and real estate firm Sansiri. “The idea when we began this journey was to create a company that focuses on multimedia designs,” says Nuntawat Jarusruangnil, Eyedropper Fill’s co-founder and managing director. “We set out to offer something different for people to see and much of what we do is experimental. Our team is composed of different talents ranging from filmmakers and designers to interactive tech developers and spatial designers. Technology is a big part of our work. It serves as a tool without which we would not be able to create interactive installations, virtual reality and visual projection holograms.”
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A key programme used at the company is TouchDesigner. This is a node-based visual programming language often used for multimedia content. “The programme can be connected with sensor devices, for example a light bulb, television, even a robot,” says Nuntawat. Together with his team, Eyedropper Fill has managed to create cutting edge experiences for an array of clients. Imagine entering an installation where you can interact with lights and holograms. Its collaboration with the Thai Film Archive for instance, where a horse is running through the streets, was created via a projection from the window of a moving van. It is but one of their creative projects intended to spread not only film and culture but also hope and freedom through cinematography.
Creatively blending film, animation, lighting design, art installations and visual and projection mapping, Eyedropper Fill has worked for numerous globally renowned brands and earned several local and international awards, including nominations at the VideoEx Festival in Zurich, Switzerland and the 12th Seoul International New Media Festival among others. It has, without doubt, added a fresher take and outstanding visuals to the creative scene in Thailand and with the continual advancements in technology, Nuntawat and his team are likely to have more exciting things in store.
“As a whole, technology has become a big part of our lives and it comes with advantages not only for the world of art and design but also in other fields,” he says. “In biotech, for example, it is enabling us to tackle plastic pollution. It can also be used as a tool in art for installations that interact with audiences and play on their emotions, without them having to even touch the artwork.”
Looking ahead, Nuntawat has a keen interest in exploring robotics and biotech. “I think we can create a new kind of experience out of these,” he says. “And in the next 10 years, I think technology for communication will entail a form of extended reality (XR), which is a combination of VR and AR,” he says. “This could be a huge challenge for experienced designers like us. I want to see my company having a team that can create something more and more impressive and innovative for the audience.” Along with its vision to push forward the realms of new media, Eyedropper Fill is also committed to educating and inspiring young people, which is why workshops are regularly conducted with universities in the capital.
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