WHERE? WHEN? WHY??? A Portrait of Vasan Sitthiket

T-shirts spoke, not here

WHERE? WHEN? WHY??? A Portrait of Vasan Sitthiket

Curator’s text extract:

“Installation work by Bangkok based artist Liliane Zumkeni. Enlarged polaroids depicting the front and back of tshirts belonging to Thai artist Vasan Sittihiket. On each of the 227 pictures are answers to the questions Where? When? Why? the shirt was worn for the first time.”

As one entered the gallery, we are faced with a gallery split in half. It feels like you are stepping into a flow of protestors, symbolised by the T-shirts represented on these inkjet prints. It felt like a silent march or a tribute to an unknown cause, to freedom of speech against all odds. On close inspection, each print represented a different T-shirt, perhaps worn on different occasions. Did the original artist intended these to be seen in tandem with the protests, and these a record? Or did the photographer strengthen the impact of these visceral and almost disposable T-shirts by placing them in unity?

The problem I have with T-shirts are two fold. They are difficult to be considered as art, unless you consider them as ‘prints’ in the loose sense. They then take on the definitions and aesthetics of Prints. The second difficulty is they seem to over-run any wardrobe with their ease, casual attitude. They are equivalent, to some extent as, Pop Art is to Baroque Art. Once an ‘underwear’ in a Western Cold Climate context, it has become a fashion wear to many, an artists’ statement to some, and more often than not, an artwork in itself. Lianne must have been interested in the latter. The investigation of T-shirts and art is an interesting one, but lack scope and voice of the original artist to explain the symbolism of at least a few of the T-shirts.

The photographic works Liliane Zumkeni can perhaps be described as casual, though the message the artist originally intended of the T-shirts probably took on a more ‘active’ role. The prints are hung at chest level, simulating the parade of human torsos, standing orderly. The mob is headless, perhaps expecting the viewers to assume anonymity of these people, or the non-importance of the persons wearing these T-shirts. T-shirts are non-violent speeches and slogans. They advertise a cause, but I fear the causes are not well illustrated and thus mis-placed and mis-construed in a foreign context like the substation gallery.

If I were to appreciate these prints as what they are, photographic prints, may I suggest a better printer shop or photographic paper for a more saturated print.

Of course, a viewer may argue merit, and see these as a statement of the protests that Singapore organised for the IMF. But that’s another argument/protest altogether.

WHERE? WHEN? WHY??? A Portrait of Vasan Sitthiket

2.0 of 5 Stars

22 Nov – 2 Dec

link to the Substation Site (accessed Jan 01, 2007).

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