For Thailand Biennale 2018, Phaophanit and Oboussier were commissioned to make a part-performative installation work which covers the rock surface of a small island located in front of the famous Phra Nang Cave Beach in Krabi, with just under a kilo of pure gold that has been hammered into fine leaf. The gilding starts from the base of the island and extends up in a diminishing gradation until it seems to diffuse entirely in to the rock surface. This creates a golden threshold between land and sea, in a natural margin that is ultimately always in transition towards disappearance. Gilding the Border uses gold to represent the connection between history, religions, rituals, and people lives. Its associations range from those of mystical illumination to monetary investment, from imperishability to merit accumulation. The artwork reconnects the sacred with the earthly, the immaterial with the material, suggesting perhaps that one can find cosmic value in the natural world.
This work stands in the throes of the ocean, and can only be seen by hiring a boat, the longtail. The longtail is a fixture in daily Thai living: its optimal functionality limited to inland waters, declining in open seas. It heralds the network of Thai enterprise, for transport and exchange, between shorelines and along the river as well as its tributaries. In Krabi, especially during the biennale, it was the only form of transport to sites within the Andaman sea bays as cuddled by the wandering shoreline of the province. It is understood that the longtail pilots enjoyed a 30% increase in transport takings during the time of the biennale.
Laos born Vong Phaophanit and UK native Claire Oboussier are partners who work together in large scale projects and installations. Gilding the Border is their tribute to a form of deterritorialization that creates a unique access and awareness otherwise often overlooked. This part performance, part installation work involved a rock-climbing event by the two climbers that started at the top of a small island rock located in front of Phra Nang Cave beach. Propelling down in a spiral, a long, thick gold leaf plate was applied by the climbers around the base of the rock. As the tide rises naturally to submerge the rock face, water gently laps against the mirrored surface. The golden border creates an intriguing threshold between land, sea and the motions of the universe.
Works such as that by Phaophanit and Oboussier invited an exploration in Krabi beyond the usual tourist icons and sites. Chancing upon the work by boat, it captures attention from a distance. The gold is immediately apprehended, articulating cultural and social symbolisms and sensibility. The artwork embodies a sculptural and monumental dimension that invokes history, heritage, myth, ritual and life itself.
Review in Culture 360 Magazine