Featured in
Issue 215

Artists’ Artists: Korakrit Arunanondchai on Thanapol Virunhakul's Dance of Touch

How Virunhakul's performances mobilize touch between audience and performer

K
BY Korakrit Arunanondchai in Profiles | 14 DEC 20

Korakrit Arunanondchai on Thanapol Virunhakul's Dance of Touchis’ is part of a series of articles in which we asked nine artists to chose a colleague whose work has been on their mind. 

Dance is a form of unconscious expression: it articulates what your body wants to do versus what it’s learned to do. Recently, I’ve been thinking back to a project by Thanapol Virunhakul – a choreographer and performance artist who lives in Bangkok – which I included in ‘Ghost:2561’, the triennial of time-based works I initiated in 2018.

In The Retreat: Gallery Drift (2018), Thanapol worked with dancers within a specific setting – in this case, artist Ian Cheng’s digital trilogy, ‘Emissaries’ (2015–17). Thanapol programmed four performers, who also doubled as audience members, to behave according to a specific set of instructions. Initially imperceptible, the performers’ movements became progressively othering as they pushed each other, and other people, away. They would converse, talking like any curious gallery-goers, but their increasingly invasive motions seemed detached from their words. Ultimately, audience and performers became one, with the piece subsuming the audience as it moved around the room. It reminded me of the ending of the cyberpunk horror movie, Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), in which the human protagonist gradually morphs into metal.

thanapol-virunhakul
Thanapol Virunhakul, The Retreat: Gallery Drift, 2018, performance documentation, Bangkok CityCity Gallery. Courtesy: the artist and Ghost Foundation, Singapore

Thanapol’s work is like deconstructed physics: we’re all unique, yet we’re all composed of the same matter. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanapol’s practice and how it mobilizes touch between audience and performer – a tactic rarely used in performance art. Today, when the space of touch and breathing is more regulated than ever, I would like to remember coming into contact with strangers, and our colliding against one another, like planets. After this moment, I wonder whether a new programme of being together in space can begin, and whether a new unconscious, a new dance of touch, will evolve.

This article first appeared in frieze issue 215 with the headline ‘Artists’ Artists’.

Main image: Thanapol Virunhakul, The Retreat: Gallery Drift, 2018, performance documentation, Bangkok CityCity Gallery. Courtesy: the artist and Ghost Foundation, Singapore

Korakrit Arunanondchai is an artist and filmmaker. His solo show at Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal, opens this month. In 2021, his work will be included in the 13th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea, and he will have a solo exhibition at Kunsthall Trondheim, Norway. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand, and New York, USA.

SHARE THIS