Fascinated by spiritual beliefs and rituals especially those surrounding death, Saroot Supasuthivech studies them as a point of entry into understanding the complexities and nuances of cultures—both his own and others.
Spirit-forward in G Major, 2023
Two-channel video installation, 4K, colour, 4.1 sound, PAR light, 19 min 34 sec; Virtual Reality, 9 min 10 sec; brass plate etchings
Project consultant: Chalida Asawakanjanakit
Video editor: Sornpannath Patpho
Music composer: Thanet Asawakanjanakit
Violinist: Pitchayapa Lueangtawikit
3D technical designer: Phattara Chattuphattarakun
System design consultant: H-Lab
Camera assistant: Jonathan Mungnonbo
German translator: Wandi Phaensombun
Looking specifically at how funerary practices of Thai people travel and evolve with their migration to Germany, Spirit-forward in G Major is a multimedia installation that encapsulates the interplay of tradition, adaptation and preservation within an evolving cultural landscape. Charting their transformative journey, the work’s narrative unfolds in four parts, told through a metaphoric cycle of life, death and rebirth.
“New Beginnings” uses therapeutic dialogues to depict the initial migrant experience of stepping into a dreamy yet unknown world; evoking a feeling of optimism amidst uncertainty. Subsequently, “A Surreal Interlude” transports viewers into a realm of magic and mortality inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. Based on interviews conducted with Thai monks and nuns in Berlin, it touches on the challenges and transformation that comes with cultural assimilation. The third segment focuses on a Thai music score Sai Samon, the oldest documented, played in G major on the violin in a Sala Thai (open pavilion) in Bad Homburg, Germany. Finally, “A Glimpse Beyond”, experienced via Virtual Reality, dives into a poetic meditation on death and the afterlife, told from the viewpoint of the deceased. Serving as a mirror reflecting the cycle of life and death, this poignant culmination is an exploration into a liminal reality between the familiar and the surreal. Alternating between the two, it echoes the fragmentation and reconstitution inherent in a migrant experience. Using photogrammetry techniques, images of real-world locations and architecture taken during the artist’s residency, such as Alter St. Matthäus-Kirchhof (Old St. Matthew’s Churchyard) and Märchenbrunnen (Fountain of Fairytales), are digitally reconstructed, distorted and fragmented to create an ethereal, otherworldly environment.
Adding to this experience are brass plate etchings comprising elements from the migrant journey: a flower mirroring the ones found around the Sala Thai in Bad Homburg; the Sai Samon music score; and Cinderella from Grimms’ Children and Household Tales (1833).
Saroot Supasuthivech (b. 1991, Thailand) employs a multifarious research approach to reimagine a range of localities, merging chronologies and perspectives. Not only does he look at geographical and political facts, he also takes into account the ways specific sites are situated and depicted in memory and discourse. Reacting to popular and official narratives, he examines the corruption of our histories and the dissolution of our identities. Ritual also emerges as a particular window of insight for him as he delves into ancient traditions and their waning relevance, inspecting the present through a lens of the past. His moving images transcend aesthetic or documentary dimensions; often combining installation, image and sound to conjure the intangible aura of a socio-historical location. In studying the ritualistic, his artistic practice performs a rite in itself, offering a ceremony of remembrance. His latest video installation, River Kwai: This Memorial Service Was Held in the Memory of the Deceased (2022), was featured in the Discoveries Section at Art Basel Hong Kong 2022.