Kawita Vatanajyankur is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.
Kawita Vatanajyankur is a Thai-Australian video artist. She is performer, artist, creator and victim in her works as she attempts to challenge the social and psychological contexts she finds herself in. Women and their unrecognised and at times undermined contributions to society are what she aims to bring attention to – the body, her body being a tool to examine this process of contribution v/s neglect. Kawita has said that her mother is the source of her inspiration for all the wonderful work that she creates. After she lost her husband, Kawita’s mother single headedly brought her up. Kawita actually started to create video works to celebrate all that she did. She also learnt to question the socially acceptable norms that came as a part of her gender identity,
“It is very difficult to deny that because of the commercials, we women are usually distracted by the society’s perceptions of physical beauty that we forget that developing our knowledge and intelligence is the key to gender equality.” She says.
Why Kawita Vatanajyankur?
The Thai culture was what she interrogates through her work – because she actually grew up in Melbourne. In terms of being inspired by work – it was when she was in university that , she had seen a Marina Abramovic’s performance works, she was keenly interested in seeing how the artist had tested her physical and psychological limits using her own body in her art work.
In ‘Machinized’, one of her works – Kawita Vatanajyankur is a tool, a moving part in the machine. She transforms herself into food production equipment in performance videos that restage processes such as boxing eggs and weighing leafy greens. This too has the same eye-catching allure that enamours us to advertising. Her endurance performances are confrontational and it interrupts this seductive surface.
The arduous tasks that she undertakes showcases a parody, a pervasive slippage between human and machine, and foreground the forgotten body within a technologically accelerating world. Beyond this literal translation, these gestures also make visible the invisible mechanisms that govern women’s everyday labour in her birthplace of Thailand.
In The Scale of Justice (2016), for instance, she is a traditional ‘beam scale’, balancing hanging baskets from her arms and feet. Against the jewel-coloured backdrop of sapphire pink, the baskets overflow with produce while we watch as her balance and composure are increasingly tested, her physical and psychological limits measured. Her brand of self-deprecating humour is also seductive. In Egg Holder (2016) she even invites her face to be egged. Aiming to catch them in her mouth in this ill-fated feat, her yoke-covered face is displayed over half a dozen screens.
Vatanajyankur’s deliberate self-objectification suggests that our bodies are a medium for submission but also for resistance. This brave, beautiful and playful work frees her from a culture of compliance but also from her mind. As she explains, it turns her body into sculpture.
Vatanajyankur has achieved significant recognition since graduating from RMIT University (BA, Fine Art) in 2011. In 2015 she was a Finalist in the Jaguar Asia Pacific Tech Art Prize and curated into the prestigious Thailand Eye exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London. In 2017, her work has been curated into ‘Islands in the Stream’ exhibition in Venice, Italy alongside the 57th Venice Biennale, Asia Triennale of Performing Arts at the Melbourne Arts Centre, as well as ‘Negotiating the Future’ , The Asian Art Biennial Taiwan. In 2018, She showed her works as part of the Bangkok Art Biennale. In 2019, Vatanajyankur has held her largest museum show to date at Albright Knox Art Gallery in New York.
Vatanajyankur has exhibited widely across Australia, as well as Asia, USA and Europe and her work is held at the National Collection of Thailand.
For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.