Pattara’s artistic practice comes in different forms, combining photography, sculpture, drawing and installation. This range of disciplines allows him to express the time in various ways, in which the past inhabits the present. He explores the relation of photography with objects, images or technology from the past. By recovering stories, neglected space or forgotten images, he highlights the disappearances or appearances at the passage of time while sublimating them
The exhibition includes ceramic sculpture (famous replicas of the cameras of the Apollo XI mission)and drawings (space craft, rockets launch dust), as well as an ingenious drawing machine activated for a given time incarnating by the rhythm of time and its overlaps. Like astronomy, photography shares the same interest for light and what lies beyond our perceptions. Photography becomes for him a starting point which allows him a transposition towards other mediums. He extracts from his research sometimes elusive fragments or a particular element allowing to pass off historical references while incarnating a form of sublime fiction and imaginary.
Pattara’s works are an extension of his ongoing interest to connect his previous photographic artworks of “forgotten spaces” and “ghost buildings” with places incarnated by spirits or not visible to the naked eye. An invitation to travel beyond earthly space to the Universe, in a transposition of the receptacle objects of the unknown, a fiction between visible and invisible.
Chanruechachai’s I remember is a series of drawings on newspapers that depict light reflecting on objects in the dark. The almost pitch-black images are pictures of parts of the Apollo XI spacecraft and various other space rockets, which are floating on the wall against the gallery’s conventional white space, resembling space debris in our orbit. The renditions
were made on newspapers that Chanruechachai has been collecting, which we could see glimpses of. The works deal heavily with photography, image making and visual literacy in this post-truth era. The artist has been paying attention to the usage of materials and their meaning in all of his works, and has been working with newspapers as material for more than a decade. Generally, newspapers refer to streams of information, current issues, journalism literacy and biased truths, but his use of newspaper by superimposing photographic images onto them, both through digital printing or drawing renditions, creates an urgency and a subtle hint at the bigger contemporary socio-political issues. The shadowy dark void is one of the repeated elements in Chanruechachai’s works. As we step back to take in his rather big scale works, we are also drawn into his black void. The shadows in his works are played out differently, often representing something that cannot be seen with the naked eyes—unknown ghostly entities that we know exist. The work ‘There is the elephant in the room’ shows a shadow of an elephant from the well-known proverb that refers to a big problem that we tend to avoid talking about even though we are aware of its existence. In the exhibition ‘The smell of the air after a firecracker has gone off …’, the black void is the void of the empty outer space. When there is no light, nothing is visible; there is no proof for the absence or the existence of things in the dark.
Apart from the images of space debris, Chanruechachai also shows us just imagine, glimpses of photographic devices that seem meant to record and capture images. With a closer look, the sculptures are revealed as replicas of the cameras used in Apollo XI mission made from ceramic, which is the same material used for the space shuttle shell, standing on mirror plinths—the illusion of the floating sculpture and the sculpture as an illusion of the truths. Vintage technical cameras look similar to weapons. While today we may not be so familiar with yesterday’s technology, we can still grasp the idea of a weapon. Cameras are in fact used to record truths, but are truths which were selected by the frame real? Are things outside the frame not real? Are the cameras themselves real? And the hollowness and the shadows that we cannot apprehend, are they also real? To comprehend and believe something, we need information and knowledge to fill in the gaps in our mind. The disappearance of knowledge will be costly to us and our little brain. Trajectory is a monumental drawing on one of the gallery’s walls depicting a space shuttle that, having ignited itself, is thrusting through the sky toward the void of the space. The rendition of the space shuttle going on its mission is a continual performative process as more lines are added onto the image by an automated machine which is programmed to draw black lines on top of the image until the image is blackened entirely and no more information can be seen or read. The more we see something repeatedly, the more meaningless it becomes. The act of adding could be as well the act of deleting, while it also creates another meaning in the meantime: the ghostly truths. In the Information Age, we are scientifically advanced enough to know the nature of things. Today, we know that we humans as a whole are immune to antibiotic substances. We learned
that chemicals in our brains affect our mood and vice versa. We know for a fact that vaccination reduces the risk of certain diseases, but why do people still have different ideas that contradict the facts? Chanruechachai brings up conversations about perceptions, truths and beliefs subtly with his new works. Apollo XI was the first and only successful mission for humans to go to the moon during the Cold War. With the blurry renditions of Apollo XI shuttles and the ceramic cameras for the particular mission, the artist subtly urges us to revisit the memories and the records of the Apollo XI mission: were they real? How do we perceive and believe such information, a fiction and a narrative in-between? The past is taking us back to the present in this post-truth era and information warfare, in which we are unavoidably living.
Where is this conversation going? Chanruechachai has his interest in the structure of belief, information and its re-exploration. Let us get around to this topic for a minute here; we humans have our own opinions on things and we trust ourselves about what we believe. It is the comfort of being able to trust ourselves to know, as long as our memories are reliable, but when our brain is challenged by new information that contradicts our existing beliefs, we tend to become more skeptical, then unconsciously begin either rejecting or filling the gaps with theories and questions to keep the narrative of our beliefs intact: a cognitive dissonance. The critical element here is the authorities, which mostly are unreliable and often without accountability in their image, ranging from the Trump administration, dictatorships in strange lands or even common ministration offices in healthy democratic countries. We have been psychologically rejecting the knowledge from the authorities because the trust was not established. The more we doubt, the less we know. Knowledge requires a certain degree of trust in ourselves to be able to know things. Chanruechachai’s works show the gaps in between and the appearance/disappearance of information for us to connect our narratives that reflect universal structural problems.
The ghostly case of disappearing knowledge: after the firecracker has gone off; there might be nothing left to assure us that its explosion did take place, except the temporary and fragile invisible scent, which is wearing thin every second. When there is no longer sensible evidence of the event, is the event still real or has it just disappeared along with the smell? Can we trust our non-visual sense instead of photographic images (which can be fabricated) to know that the firecracker had gone off when we did not look at it? In July 1969, two people were standing on the moon; the event was real; on top of that, the scepticism about its existence was also as real. The ideas about the uncertainty and disappearance of knowledge are real. The social and political structure and its problems that lead us to perceive, apprehend and reject the information are also real, and they could be the root of it all. The works of Chanruechachai are indeed real. The drawings of space shuttles in dark empty spaces are real; the ceramic cameras cannot be more real; the blackened drawing on the wall is also real; the authorised automated machine is real. Chanruechachai’s questions are genuine, as well as himself as an artist. They are all real.
Pratchaya Phinthong
12 July 2019, Bangkok

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