Dreamworld #dreammantra By Mit Jai Inn at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum
April 15 - April 1
By Mit Jai Inn
Curated by Melanie Pocock and Kittima Chareeprasit
Exhibition period: 15 April 2023 – 1 April 2024
Opening reception: 14 July 2023
At MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand
An exhibition organised by Ikon and MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum
Dreamworld #dreammantra is a continuation of Dreamworld, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe, which toured to Jim Thompson Art Center (Bangkok, Thailand, 2022) under the title Dreamday. The exhibition embodies the artist’s vision of art “as a utopian dream within everyday life” and collective hopes for a brighter future. In recent times, the challenges of a global pandemic, climate change and global geopolitics have led to widespread disillusionment, with many people choosing to withdraw from “in real life” experience. These challenges have also forced us to imagine alternative ways of being that refuse exploitative modes of production and instead promote the value of presence, mutual dialogue and gift economies.
Circulating positive energy between humans and the natural world is at the heart of Mit’s artistic practice. He sees painting as a way of transferring fields of energy from the earth (the source of his materials) into his works, their surroundings and viewers. Often working at night, he uses his hands, fingers and palette knives to dab, slap and pull colours across rolls of unstretched canvas, blending them intuitively. The thick consistency of his paint is derived from a mixture of oils, gypsum powder, colour pigments and acrylic, often loosened with linseed oil. In time, circular patches and specks of colour are built up, creating a natural rhythm, pattern and language.
A devout Buddhist, Mit sees art as a form of “social architecture” capable of counting the controlled dynamics of consumer economies. For many years, he worked anonymously with artists and communities as part of Chiang Mai Social Installation (CMSI), giving his works away for members of the public to keep, and for artists to incorporate into their own projects. These gestures highlight Mit’s belief in his artworks as gifts, whose meaning lies in the hands of their owners, hosts and viewers.
Dreamworld #dreammantra explores the healing and social power of art through vibrant works that can be touched, walked through, stepped on and taken away. Highlighting Mit’s belief in the “living” nature of paintings, the exhibition challenges hierarchies between art and viewers, transforming MAIIAM’s galleries into spaces for dwelling, interacting and creating. Stepping into the museum, visitors will first be greeted with Pond (2023), a large pool of water dotted with hundreds of floating objects specially made for this exhibition. In the main hall, Dream Tunnel (2021) creates a room within a room, surrounding viewers who walk through it with ribbons of colour, designed to “cleanse stagnant or wounded energies”. Midlands Dwelling (2021) references the prehistoric caves in which early humans expressed their dreams as drawings, as well as the city of Birmingham, where the welded metal sculptures inside the installation were made. Dream Works (1999–) and Loops (2019–) are two ongoing series of double-sided canvases, with cuts and slits that allow them to be curved, looped, hung or placed on the ground.
#dreammantra is the heart of this exhibition, and is a continuation of Mit’s numerous participatory art projects. From the Vienna Apartments (2000), #dreammantra (2021), and Bangkok Apartments (2022), which allowed audiences to take one of the exhibited works home with them. In place of money, Mit asks that those audience members open their homes to the public, so that their chosen work can be shared with strangers. Likewise, #dreammantra (2023) is a project that allows audiences to take home one piece of work each day* throughout the exhibition period. In exchange, Mit only asks that those audience members make a pledge for themselves or society, recording those vows in the video form and publishing them onto online platforms, namely the museum’s official YouTube channel.
For this exhibition, the artist has created hundreds of papier-mâché sculptures, divided into two categories: ‘Marking Stone’, a series of stone-shaped objects; some opaque and legged, while others have hollow openings for keeping other things. The other group, ‘Marking Light’, is a lamp set with an Mit was inspired by the Bai Sema; stone tablets found in ancient Buddhist temples used to section out space for religious rituals. Mit views these creations as talismans, capable of warding off misfortune and providing a safe space for their owners during hard times.
series brings us on an examination of the concept of ‘social architecture’, which characterizes art as part of the community and society. Art is also like a reward for the individual and the public alike, an offering to the audience’s conviction in their oath to themselves and society. Alongside this exhibition, a comprehensive monograph on Mit Jai Inn’s life and work, published by Ikon and ArtAsiaPacific Foundation, is available to purchase at the JTAC. It includes full-colour documentation of the Dreamworld exhibition at Ikon Gallery and key works, with texts by Melanie Pocock, Ikon Curator; art historian Simon Soon; critic and curator Brian Curtin; plus an interview with the artist by Gridthiya Gaweewong, Artistic Director, The Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok.
*Disclaimer: Only 1 piece of art will be given out each day. Limited to 1 piece per audience member.
About the Artist
Mit Jai Inn
Mit Jai Inn (born 1960, Chiang Mai) was raised in an indigenous Yong family and Lanna weaving village in Northern Thailand. Aged nine, Mit became a novice monk at Djittabhawan Buddhist College, Pattaya (1970 – 1976). He began his artistic training at Silpakorn University, Bangkok, whose neo-traditionalist curriculum he eventually rebelled against. Leaving for Germany in 1986, where he camped in Kassel during documenta 8, he enrolled in the Master’s programme at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. There, he met acclaimed Austrian artist Franz West, for whom he worked as a studio assistant (1988 – 1992). Returning to Thailand in 1992, he founded with a group of Thai artists the Chiang Mai Social Installation (CMSI), a festival of ephemeral installations and performance art in public spaces and temples throughout the city. Over the past twenty years, his work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries including the Yokohama Triennale (2005); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2007); Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (2011); Singapore Art Museum (2014); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2018); Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan; and the 18th and 21st Biennales of Sydney (2012 and 2018), Ikon Gallery (2021) and Aichi Triennale (2022). His work is represented by Silverlens in Manila and TKG+ in Taipei. Mit lives and works in Chiang Mai.
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