Crafting Communities - a reflection on the significance of Womanifesto

Venue and Dates:
AAA Library, Asia Art Archive | 亞洲藝術文獻庫圖書館, Hong Kong
16 July – 28 November 2020
Curated by John Tain (Head of Research at Asia Art Archive) with the assistance of Özge Ersoy, Ali Wong, Garfield Chow, and intern Lora Fong.

Crafting Communities was an exhibition that took place at the Asia Art Archive Library in Hong Kong in 2020, and considered the history of Womanifesto; a feminist biennial programme active in Thailand from 1997 to 2008 that created space for women artists in an art scene dominated by men. Crafting Communities forms part of the work that Asia Art Archive is doing with Womanifesto to digitise their archive. The exhibition supplemented efforts to make the significance of Womanifesto visible through access to materials and highlighting the impact their programming.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Debuting as an exhibition that featured eighteen artists from ten countries—Nilofar Akmut, Amanda Heng, Arahmaiani, Pinaree Sanpitak, and Phaptawan Suwannakudt among them, together with organisers Nitaya Ueareeworakul and Varsha Nair—Womanifesto was celebrated for making space for women artists in a scene heavily dominated by men. The second edition in 1999 realised installations and performances across Bangkok’s Saranrom Park, and expanded to over thirty participants, including Sanja Iveković, Mella Jaarsma, Sriwan Janehattakarnkit, and Jittima Pholsawek. In keeping with the project’s origins, later iterations continued to explore themes related to women’s lives and histories (2003’s Procreation/Postcreation, for instance) in the context of an international art exchange, with each event bringing together artists from Thailand and beyond, even as the format varied over time.

Two events, both organised at Boon Bandarn Farm in the Isaan region of northeast Thailand, bring out the programme’s educational dimension as well. In 2001, Womanifesto took place as a ten-day workshop, gathering a group of thirteen artists—including Lawan Jirasuradej, Yin Xiuzhen, Karla Sachse, and Hiroko Inoue—to simply take in the landscape or develop their own projects within a loose framework akin to today’s makerspaces. The participants learned basketry and weaving from local craftspeople, including programme host Pan Parahom. In turn, the artists organised their own workshops for students from nearby schools, and put together projects involving locals, as when Surojana Sethabutra built a kiln for firing ceramics made by the farm’s inhabitants. Womanifesto released the artists from the production pressures typical of international biennial events, giving them instead the time to breathe, and to share knowledge with each other and with local communities.

The most recent event, a residency organised in 2008, deepened their engagement with the Boon Bandarn Farm and nearby communities. A longer month-long stay allowed the artists to develop more sustained projects exploring local folklore and history, in many cases in collaboration with community members and students from local schools and universities. Naruemon Padsamran, herself from the region, worked with farmhands and artisans to create the site-specific installation Kor Kwaay Dong Khao Na…Kor Khon Dong Khueng Khang, repurposing gunny sacks used by farmers as flags that flew over the rice fields as a testament to the lives of farmers in the region. Meanwhile, Graciela Ovejero’s A Spirit House for Located Memory – Post-cards from Tucumán and Isaan paid homage to Thai spirit houses, joining together images and memories contributed by local students with ones from Ovejero’s home in Tucumán, Argentina. In these programmes, Womanifesto articulated, within a rural setting, the possibility of a contemporary artistic practice that could learn from traditional regional crafts, while also serving local audiences.

Text from Asia Art Archive

Installation views of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation views of Crafting Communities, Asia Art Archive, 2020. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Mus re officillupta non preri ut oditibere, quaecab orerum remod ut essequis antia
quaeperumqui officiet earum res

RESOURCES

Access the Womanifesto website here

Access Asia Art Archive here

Access the Womanifesto Archive on Asia Art Archive here

Access the English and Cantonese Online Exhibition Tours from August 2020 through the Crafting Communities programme page here
– Online Exhibition Tour in English with John Tain with Ali Wong, Varsha Nair, Nitaya Ueareeworakul, Nilofar Akmut, and Phaptawan Suwannakudt
– Online Exhibition Tour in Cantonese with Ali Wong and Susanna Chung

Artist list:

Womanifesto (Thailand)
Nilofar AKMUT
Amanda HENG, 王良吟
Arahmaiani
Pinaree SANPITAK, พินรี สัณฑ์พิทักษ์
Phaptawan SUWANNAKUDT
Nitaya UEAREEWARAKUL
Varsha NAIR
Lawan JIRASURADEJ
YIN Xiuzhen, 尹秀珍
Karla SACHSE
Hiroko INOUE, 井上廣子

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