‘In – Between’: a Jewel of Performance Art

 |  September 20, 2017

What is meaning? What is creativity? These are the questions the overflow audience took away from ‘In – Between’, performed by the Malangphu Group at the Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum on 9th September.

At half stage, a brilliant white translucent paper curtain. Haunting flute, saxophone and drumming floating in the background. A man inexplicably stitching hieroglyphic patterns into the paper curtain with bright red thread. He says nothing. A white-clad dancer frantically sweeping, tumbling, sometimes crawling about the stage. A young man lying supine on a platform to the left of the stage. As the dancer’s movements become more frenzied, he begins to do rapid push-ups. Finally he is dripping with perspiration, about to collapse. The physical and emotional exhaustion of the two seem to converge.

Behind the white curtain, indistinct moving shadows.

The dancer and man stitch violently with their red thread, partly demolishing the white curtain. The dancer rushes to and fro through an opening she has torn in the curtain, passing first into the shadow world behind the curtain, and then back into reality — or is it reality — in the foreground. This seems to lead to an incomplete resolution.

‘In – Between’ is rich with meaning and passion. But what meaning? Passion about what? This is left for you to decide. It is mysterious. This is legitimate art, in part because it challenges the audience’s conventional notions of what art is.
It is a paradox. The artist — creating from within, uncompromising, fearless, and absolutely independent of anything which has come before — taps into universal human experience in a way that conventional art for entertainment cannot do. The path of artistic expression to the universal human condition is never direct, never explicit, but it takes you to the same place.

Do the Malangphu performers transport us back (for example) 2,000 years to the allegory of Plato’s Cave? Here the Greek philosopher Plato gives us the story of prisoners chained in a cave, able to see shadows cast onto a wall of the cave, but because they are in chains, not the reality of people and objects behind them which are projected, unknown to them, as shadows on the wall. The prisoners mistake the shadows for ‘reality’. If one of Plato’s prisoners can escape from the cave into the bright light of day, he can see reality. Is demolishing the white curtain in this performance analogous, in some way, to escape from Plato’s cave? We don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this performance frees us to think, with Plato, about the universality of human experience and perception.

There will not be another live performance of ‘In – Between’. It is not a commercial product. The Malangphu Group, an extraordinary cooperative of Chiang Mai artists in all media, has donated all proceeds of the performance to the Sri Sangwan School, a school for children with physical and learning disabilities in Chiang Mai.

‘In – Between’ was composed by Chumpol Taksapornchai, a Chiang Mai artist and member of the Malangphu Group. You can follow his work by visiting his art gallery at 36/4 Rachapakinai Road in Chiang Mai or at matoomartspace.com.