Transmission: Speaking and Listening

Volume 1.

Essay by Claire Oboussier

ISBN 0 86339 986 X

Vong Phaophanit

Vong Phaophanit’s work has evolved from a process of mediation between cultures (works such as Fragments and Neon Rice Field) to what is today a kind of cross fertilisation which is more and more open to hybrid forms and unexpected alchemy. The distinction between looking and seeing is linked to Phaophanit’s very particular way of positioning his practice in an ever shifting arena. Looking is a culturally prescribed and informed activity for Phaophanit, whilst seeing is for him a process that can happen outside of cultural discourses and linguistic paradigms, a space where new meanings can be allowed to come into existence. The work produced itself reflects the tension between these two polarised visions. It plays at the borders of cultural forms, unsettling them, loosening reference and structure, eliding narratives. Recent work has included found, often obsolete objects which Phaophanit drills with a multitude of small holes, eventually transforming the object into a kind of shadow of its former self. Its form is still recognisable and yet the mass of its substance has been drilled away   a small cultural icon stripped of its actual body but still managing to retain its significance. Other recent work has involved dipping mass produced collectable ornaments into baths of hot wax, building up layers until most of their original features are as if thickly veiled. These ‘stratified’ figurines thus become deformed in sometimes exquisite and at other times hideous ways, again creating an ambiguity of identity and an openness of boundaries.

Claire Oboussier