Visual Culture Colloquium with Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol 11/16/23

"Contemporary Art After Buddhadasa Bhikkhu"

Thursday November 16th, 2023 at 12:20 PM
Kahin Center



The temple as exhibitionary complex, the sangha as art public, the filmic as animistic apparatus: these emergent conjectures in the study of Thai visual modernity take religious grammar as a regenerative ground for aesthetic and social form. Building on such interventions, this talk approaches the work of reformist monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (1906–1993) as the basis for reconsidering some of contemporary art’s key concepts: the installative, the participatory, and the mediatic. Conceived as an art gallery and movie screening hall, Buddhadasa’s Spiritual Theater (ca. 1962–1972) introduced a visual and soteriological pedagogy that privileged aniconic visuality in a bid not only to rationalize Buddhist teaching, but also to promote a distinctly religious media economy. Buddhadasa’s interest was in the generativity of intermedial translations, whether monks painting murals enlarged from ink paintings, villagers making copies of sculptural reliefs from the stupas at Sanchi, or disciples turning art history slide lectures into interactive performances. Where history written under the sign of the avant-garde often pursues novelty, the Spiritual Theater deforms this model through reproduction and reenactment. Such operations open up to the contemporary not as a matter of accelerated succession, but as entropic ecology.



Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art at McGill University. Previously, he was Curator at Singapore Art Museum and Visiting Lecturer at National University of Singapore. His current book project develops a postsecular approach to Philippine and Thai modernisms, focusing on how artists made a case for abstraction as a testing ground for various forms of aesthetic, moral, and religious conviction. A second project brings together histories of climate control, art conservation, and conceptual art in the tropics to address questions about ontologies of art in an age of environmental crisis. His writing has appeared in Aperture, Artforum, British Art Studies, MoMA Post, and Oxford Art Journal.


Co-sponsored by the Gatty Lecture Series, Southeast Asia Program. 

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