As we collectively stay at home during these turbulent times, how are artists coping, and what are they brewing up at home? Artists @ Home is a series of email interviews with artists where we find out what they’ve been up to, as all of us, voluntarily or not, embrace the home as work and studio space.
Manit Sriwanichpoom is a Thai artist, photographer, writer and social activist who is renowned for his Pink Man series of works. He writes to us from his home in Bangkok to share his thoughts about these turbulent times.
What’s different about working from home rather than from the studio?
Normally, there are three places where I go for work: my studio, Kathmandu Photo Gallery, and Cinema Oasis. Each space has a different function – I go to the studio only to produce my own work, while the other spaces are for meeting with my staff and clients. To cover all these spaces, I need to plan my schedule well. Otherwise, I’d lose valuable time due to Bangkok’s serious traffic issues.
Because of the lockdown, I’ve had to move one of my computers from my gallery in order to work from home, where there is no wi-fi available. I can feel myself becoming calm and peaceful. Maybe because the whole world is under lockdown too? There are no emails to answer. All art projects are pending or cancelled. I don’t have to go out, so I have more time to spend at home. Luckily, we’ve just got a new puppy named Mhinoy, or ‘little bear’, whom we believe is a reincarnation of our previous fur child. He makes our days pass with laughter and smiles.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on two new books simultaneously; one is Pink Man Story, a collection of my Pink Man series, which is a work that spans 20 years from 1997 to 2018, and ‘I Saw a Blue Wing’, a collection of photographs that I took during my travels from 2006 to 2019. I’m glad to have three important art and photography writers, Iola Lenzi, Zhuang Wubin, and Ing Kanjanavanit, working on the Pink Man book. I hope the book will be ready for printing in the next two to three months, but whether it is safe to do so would depend on the pandemic situation.
What’s one thing (poem, artwork, song, movie etc) that’s been on your mind and why?
I check the online news and TV every day to keep updated about the pandemic. I see many sad pictures, such as Italian army trucks taking thousands of dead bodies to bury outside the city as there are not enough burial spaces for them, or corpses in body bags left on the streets in Ecuador, and bulldozers preparing land for a mass grave to deal with massive deaths of New Yorkers in early April.
These reminded me of The Last Man and the End of His Story, a photo series that wrapped up my Pink Man project in New York in 2018. In the photos, a pink body bag lies next to an empty pink trolley, which we staged on many city streets including Madison Square. This series is a grave reflection on the scale and violence of hyper-consumerism that has created this violent world. Unbelievably, just over a year later it’s happening right now and the scale of the catastrophe is beyond our imagination.
What do we learn from this pandemic?
As my work comments on consumerism and globalisation, I hope that humanity will learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to change, to stop exploiting Mother Nature for money and leisure. We need to live humbly and mindfully. We can’t just hope that when the pandemic is gone we can go back to live as we used to. We definitely need new economic systems to replace the current one that has been treating our planet earth badly. After a month of lockdown, nature has recovered significantly from pollution. This phenomenon confirms that the planet can survive and even thrive without humans.