Tuesday, March 6, 2012

QUEERNESS by Piyarat Piyapongwiwat

QUEERNESS by Piyarat Piyapongwiwat
15 March - 30 April 2012
Opening reception Thursday 15 March, 7pm
Toot Yung Gallery


In 2002, the Thai Ministry of Health publicly declared that homosexuality was no longer to be regarded as a mental illness or disorder. Homosexuality if fairly accepted in the Thai society nowadays compared to other countries. There is quite a number of public figures who are openly gay, lesbian or transgender. Nonetheless, there is no governmental recognition of queer couples in Thailand and they are still regarded as gender bias by local communities.

Last year, Piyarat Piyapongwiwat started a photographic project named Microcosm through which she explored the family structures in Thailand. She took a large series of family portraits in their houses and realized that gay couples lived alone, out of the Thai family structure norms. She decided to survey the middle class established queer couples in Bangkok and started the “Queerness” series.

Unlike most contemporary photographers exploring this subject, Piyapongwiwat chose to have a very restrained approach of her models. There is no nudity or sexually explicit poses in the photographs. There are no obvious elements pointing out their sexual tendencies. There is no theatrical display either, no colourful backgrounds or studio lighting as in Catherine Opies’s transgender series. Her photographs are not crude “stolen” stills as in Nan Goldin’s work; Piyapongwiwat’s models are posing and looking at the camera, aware of the full content of the project. The posture and composition of the models was inspired from the classical studio photographs as to emphasize the commonness of these couples.

Piyapongwiwat selected couples who were living together for at least one year. Her main focus is to point out the fact that these “ordinary couples” do not have the same social rights as heterosexual couples even though everything from an outsider point of view shows that they are very similar. She started by shooting herself with her girlfriend, then close friends, and then friends of friends etc. She noted that there are still a lot of couples not ready to reveal their sexual tendency. A number of them do not want to expose it to their professional surroundings, or simply to their own families. It is still somehow something to be ashamed of.

As the photographer puts it:
“People should have the right to choose their own sexuality, beliefs, values and different ways of life. Should we really be living in a society which has only one truth without any space for diversity?”


Piyarat Piyapongwiwat, b. 1977, Phrae, Thailand

Piyarat Piyapongwiwat (b.1977) is a Thai visual artist based in Bangkok. She had a degree in Communications and worked in film production for several years before she decided to pursue her study in Fine Arts at Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier Agglomération in France.

Piyarat mainly works through the medium of photography, video and installation. Her work is concerned with a variety of cultural issues, identity and representation.
She mixes social commentary, references to philosophy, documentary conventions and aesthetics of everyday life in her works.

She has held three group exhibitions, including Quinzinzinzili (2010) in France, City of Angels/Identity Crisis (2011) in France and VAFA (2011) in Macau, South China. Her video works have been screened in many international video festivals and programs, including Soirée Flare #13 in France (2010), AND festival in UK (2011), 5th Indonesia International Video Festival in Indonesia (2011) and 28th Kasseler Dokumentarfilm und Videofest in Germany (2011).

The Toot Yung Gallery is very pleased to present Piyarat Piyapongwiwat’s first solo exhibition, “Queerness”. Piyarat Piyapongwiwat who recently graduated from the Beaux Arts School in Montpellier, France, mainly works through the medium of photography, video and installation. Her work is concerned with a variety of cultural issues and identity. For the present exhibition she chose to explore the established gay and lesbian couples in Thailand. The photos, which present no artifice, have a very classical feel in the simplicity of the compositions as to underline the fact that even though these couples are like any other couples they are still regarded as gender bias by local communities.

The Toot Yung Gallery would also like to announce that it will move to a new space soon. We take this opportunity to thank Laudine Dubeaux and Arnut Saento for their very kind support since our opening in 2010. This will be the last exhibition in the shared space with Chez Lodin bar, so come and enjoy this last party with us! The new space’s location will be announced shortly.

For further information please contact the gallery director:
Myrtille Tibayrenc
Toot Yung Gallery