Knit, 4K Video Still, 2019
(A 'remake' from the original 'Knit: 1 hour of live performance' by Kawita Vatanajyankur
One of the Bangkok Biennale’s final acts is the performance artist Kawita Vatanajyankur’s “Knit,” a critique on how women are exploited in the work force. She weaves her body in and out of a loom of red yarn around 12 white poles in an oval shape, becoming knotted and contorted. This performance is not being performed in a museum or abandoned warehouse but in the soaring lobby of the posh Peninsula Hotel during afternoon tea — a new spin on how Bangkok’s engine of tourism and its women converge again.
My aim is to portray humans as machines and show how our feelings inevitably come out, whether we want them to or not. During the Peninsula Hotel performance, I was weaving fabric around my entire body. My feet, my hands, my muscles, even my teeth, had to work until I was done. Once you are a machine you start becoming very invested in the work.
Half an hour in, I started feeling tired and exhausted. After 40 minutes, I started to get dizzy and my head ached, but I still had to work. After 45 minutes, I felt trapped as the fabric was also around my head, but my hands and feet could still work. At one point, I couldn’t control them any longer. I started having vertigo, but kept going until I’d finished. Everybody saw how I felt. In the end, I collapsed, but the fabric was finished.
Knit' is Vatanajyankur’s first live performance work. The performance component of this work is a part of her ongoing series of illuminating videos entitled ‘Performing Textiles’ which invokes a powerful sense of physicality, uncovering a world of often-invisible domestic labour by painfully testing the limits of her own body. Her dynamic video art is a springboard to explore the value and understanding of the performative body, and the role of gesture within that very performance.
As 'Performing Textiles' highlights the current world of consumption, consumerism and materialism; a world where we place higher value on objects rather than the workers and laborers behind the finished product -- the message of her work is clear. Human beings become undervalued and viewed as merely tools and even machines - that produce packages of food, clothes and other materials for us to consume. The work will bring together the ‘producer’ (the artist) and the ‘consumers’ (the audience) to present a microcosmic representation of society at large and will ask prescient questions about our complicity through inaction.
Edition of 4+3 AP
'Knit' exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, Korea