From June 29 to July 4, the SEAΔ fellows of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council were at the “Asia on the Rise?” Conference hosted by the Association of Asian Studies at the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok, Thailand. There we presented the outcomes from SEAD Create, which our group held in Kampong Thom, Cambodia.
It was quite fun to discuss what we did with the local communities in Cambodia, from the workshops we held and the culminating Art and Environment Festival. At the very least, as I have learned presenting in different conferences, it was unique to have artists in an academic setting who actually reached out to communities that academics are studying.
Moreover, it was a joy to reconnect with my new friends and colleagues from all over Southeast Asia and the UK, comparing notes on what went well and what did not. We were divided into three groups and there were three very unique projects. Our group’s project, “Adapt to the Future” focused on how art can contribute to adaptation in the climate crisis. Through performances, exhibitions, and workshops for social development, the project inspired co-creation and action of Cambodia’s collective futures through the lens of climate change.
Another group, “Clayground Theater”, was a workshop series in Thailand using dance and craft to explore childhood memories. The third group, “Three Women and a Duck”, connects with groups inside several markets in Vietnam and Lao through an intimate sharing space, coming up with workshop sessions and recording stories, music, and objects.
Finally, it was fantastic to connect with so many amazing people in the conference and the Bangkok art scene. Bangkok is a dynamic, pulsating city packed with people in art and sustainability. We had field visits at the Fine Art Magazine office where we met Tawatchai Somkong, artist, editor-in-chief, and curator of the Thai Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale; the community in the beautiful Bangkok 1899, Chris Oestereich of Linear to Circular and the Circular Design Lab, and others thanks to MCH regional representatives Siriwat Pokrajen of Thailand and Mimi Heaungsoukkhoun of Laos.
Even on my days off, I was still meeting people, such as a chance visit to the traveling exhibition of the National Museum of the Philippines where they presented the pineapple silk cloths of the tropics, and some people from the UK and China art scene in the Airplane Graveyard. If I can still work in the decaying corpse of a Boeing 747, I know it was a good trip.
I learned many things during this trip. Among others, I have no doubt that it is imperative for the arts to be integrated into other disciplines to reach the communities that the latter aim to serve. I am so excited to be in this unique position to come from both the arts and the sciences doing projects on the environment, and to work with all of these incredible people. I look forward to how these experiences will shape me in the years to come.
All in all, it was a great week in Bangkok. Next up, SEAΔ Reflect in Yangon, Myanmar. See you, fam!
Thanks to Jennifer Lee and Patty Chan of Mekong Cultural Hub, our creative facilitators Nicola Turner and Sudebi Thakurata, Daniel Donnelly and Julia Davies from the British Council, and the Association for Asian Studies!