Interviews · Stories

‘In the Margins’

DK Director Dipika Kohli & Napisa Leelasuphapong talk art, design, and curation, in light, honest and easygoing conversations at the library and garden spaces of the privately funded contemporary art space, Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Feb. 2020.  

This is an excerpt from one of our 2020 issues of S P A C E, which was called S P A C E | Bangkok, ‘The Last Copy is for Reading Here’. Find it in our online store, here.



In the Margins


Words Dipika Kohli
Editing A. Spaice
Photography Napisa Leelasuphapong

A friend of mine who studied narrative ontology once said, ‘There are two kinds of stories. Someone goes on a trip, and, a stranger comes to town.’ In Bangkok in February, I think we had both, in one sitting.

I, a stranger, came to town, but with the help of people who got me started thinking newly, we all sort of went on a new trip. Together. That is what happens, sometimes. Especially in S P A C E.


 


The setting: mid-afternoon, hopping off the MRT for Lumphini Park and strolling through the expensive-looking neighborhood to the place I had arranged to meet the team of Bangkok CityCity Gallery, which is a privately-funded contemporary art space.

It’s the kind of place you don’t really know about unless you specifically are looking, but if you go once, then you probably go reguarly, to see what’s changing. I found myself changing, on this trip. Here’s why. Professional, long-time Bangkokian curators who’ve spent their careers on the work of bringing art to the public, super cool, and I, got to chat, together, about what exactly that even means. A show called ‘The Last Copy is for Reading Here’ was about to close at the time of my visit.


‘If I don’t put myself into it,’ says Napisa Leelasuphapong, the Bookshop Library Manager, who put together the show, ‘then it’s not that interesting.’


Talking was easygoing. Simple. The mostly-empty table where we sat was by the window. A glass of water was offered. A pitcher of ice water reflected all the lights. The shadows of the decal of the title of the show fell on the surfaces, floor, edges, chairs, tables, anything, through the shift of time. An afternoon went by, like this, and I took these kinds of visual notes, while we listened to each other and asked questions that made us all think. And pause.

At these obtuse angles, I was reminded all over again of why I love relational aesthetics. Us, in the room, together. Us, with this show. The show, with us: the copy on the table, the title of this show. Shadow. Light. Exciting, just recalling it, reporting it here. (‘Last Copy’ was, curiously, the first show in the library space. Following our fun, light, and agenda-less drift of conversations, I left the last copy of DK’s limited edition set of four issues of S P A C E | Rīga, ‘Drift’ with Leelasuphapong.)

A leafy neighborhood


The gallery is in a leafy neighborhood that is quite easy to walk around in, which is nice, when you are in Bangkok. So, getting back to my just-for-this-week home, which was a 10-minute walk from there, I thought it over. Sitting on the balcony of the second-floor room, in this wooden guesthouse that is built around a giant tree in a tiny courtyard, and run by an elderly couple who gave me a semi-deal, I really went through the feelings.

What it was, was the same kind of thing that happens when you go very far from home, and come back, and look at it all, again. Sitting there, on that nice outdoor spot poking out into the limbs of this very sturdy, old, and wise tree, I again considered what was around me, relationally.

(The couple, their story about coughing and how, no, no, it’s not the virus, ‘He just went to Phuket, see, and smokes, and drank too much!’, so no need to fret about ‘coronavirus,’ as we all were calling it back then.) Did I fret? A little. Did it matter? Not that much, in the end, fortunately. Sure, I did have a slight fever and a sniffly nose, but I slept for two days and it got better. It was hot. Very.

 

Focus


If I don’t put myself into it, then it’s not that interesting, she had said. I kept going back to that. Wondered if I could talk to her some more about the show itself, and not just generally about art and curation, this time. Could we?

In Open Space, which is my favorite style of hosting dialogue roundtables, you can have ‘breakout’ spaces when you want to dive deep into a specific topic. You just arrange another time, another place, and set the theme. So we did.

This time, we talked in the garden, continuing exactly from where we’d left off. Students of design, aesthetics, and art, like us, tend to veer towards the philosophical quite naturally, I think.


‘I studied for a master’s degree in Visual Arts, major in Graphic Design in Belgium,’ Leelasuphapong explained, after first finishing a bachelor’s in industrial design, in Bangkok.

‘The class in which the teacher asked, ‘What moves you as an artist?’ that I mentioned was an optional class. Most of the students joined in the class were from [the] art department. I’m a graphic designer who’s interested in art. :).’


I could relate.

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