Defrosting Thai Culture – The clash of traditional Southeast Asian storytelling and diasporic reality.

Kantatach Kijtikhun | Theerawat Klangjareonchai | Raksa Seelapan | Prapatsorn Sukkaset


Schaubude-Forschungsresidenz 2022
Project documentation of the residency.

Knowledge-transfer patterns and colonial mimicry in traditional Thai performance and storytelling formed the core of this year’s Schaubude residency un.thai.tled.

“Shifting away from the content-focus of these oriental forms of storytelling, we focus on their forms;
how the size, gender, shadows, lights and other components of a show can facilitate a so-called cultural (mis)translation. With this arising possibility of deconstructing the pre-given social hierarchy (rooted in colonial Thai heritage), we will question and propose the alternate form beyond the usually untouchable, unmalleable rigid structure of who (gender, race, class), how and what can be performed.”

Extract from the exposé on the blog of un.thai.tled

The artists placed a special focus on »Phra Aphai Mani«, a 48,700 line poem by Sunthornphu, one of the most well-known Thai royal poets of Rattanakosin period. The poem was written during the period of western colonisation of Southeast Asia. According to some critics »Phra Aphai Mani« is thought to be an anti-colonialist tale in form of a fantasy adventure.

The poem tells the tale of two princes who had been banished from court by their father, because they didn’t prepare for the throne – but studied art. Phra Aphai Mani, one of the princes, was teached the magical flute, whose sounds can overcome violence and bring peace. One day his performance is overheard by a female sea ogress, that can change its shape into a beautiful woman. It falls in love on the spot and carries him off to its underwater cave.

Phra Aphai Mani’s character reflects the lives of the members of un.thai.tled: foreign students abroad, seeking for acceptance from family (or even in the scale of the society), driven by passion, detained and suppressed by the higher power of the ogress in the cave.

The project

“How do we translate the already rigid colonial forms of Southeast Asian storytelling into the contemporary? How do we then translate this into international context without reproducing cultural self-exoticism? How do we bridge the gap of generational knowledge between our ancestors and the new generation of diaspora?”

Extract from the exposé on the blog of un.thai.tled

For the practical implementation of the story the artists experimented with modern techniques of digital shadows and kinect technology, that are a contemporary reference to traditional Thai shadow theatre.
Their performance at the end of the residency included and combined kinect projections, shadow theater, costumes, light and sound.

Teaser Performance Defrosting Thai Culture

“This research residency would not only benefit us as a group of young institutionally-unrecognized artists, but also as persons in exile, whose cultural-political works can only be executed in the context of Western Europe. Having this paradox in mind (regarding state-censorship in Thailand yet the colonial legacy of Germany), we want to utilize this “freedom” in order to bring forth alternative ways of interactive theater.

un.thai.tled about the motivation to do the residency

On Sunday, November 6 at 11am the residents will talk about the results of their research at the Festivalfrühstück, which is part of our festival Theater der Dinge 2022.

UN.THAI.TLED is a group of Thai creatives in Germany that encounters misconceptions and stereotypes within western world – but also the lack of socio-cultural engagement between Thai and German people. Their mission is to provide a platform or opportunities for creative talents from Thailand/with Thai cultural-biological background. Their name comes from their wish to be freed from titles and easy labels people tend to put them on. They organize series of events that focus on specific medias, such as film or music, with interdisciplinary approach (design + arts + academics) and intermedial aspect.

KANTATACH KIJTIKHUN has graduated from College of Music, Mahidol University but also has a Master Degree in Photography at the University of Applied Sciences Europe, Berlin campus. After his graduation he became a photographer assistant for Lips magazine before moving to Berlin. His work is influenced by the philosophy of nihilsm and illustrates personal and political struggles of the mind. As one of the founders of the “Thai democratic people in Germany” group, he is deeply concerned with the political situation in his home country, Thailand. He is also part of “Un.thai.tled” a Berlin based Thai creative collective.

THEERAWAT KLANGJAREONCHAI is a media artist who engages himself in many genres of visual arts. He opted to study communication design for his bachelor’s degree in Bangkok, and decided to continue his studies in Berlin, Germany for his MA in Media Spaces. He is currently developing his practice based on the question of reality within the combination of digital and physical spaces.

PRAPATSORN SUKKASET is a Berlin-based stage designer. Through her perspective as an architecture graduate she had worked for multimedia studios in Thailand, on concert stages and developed theatrical set designs. She has a Master’s degree in Architecture from “Städelschule Architecture Class – Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste” from 2020 and also finiished her Master’s degree in Design and Scenography/ Bühnenbild und Szenischer Raum from Technische Universität Berlin in 2022. Her ongoing research is based on shadows and the metaphor, as a method
of representation in a research series “Domestic Scene”.

RAKSA SEELAPAN describes herself as a performance artist working with theatrical representations, focusing mainly on movement in various forms. She graduated in Physical Theater from Commedia School in Copenhagen, Denmark and now lives in Hamburg, Germany. Her work ranges from abstract concepts to concrete beings that try to authentically provoke the audience or simply exist and have fun with the audience. She is inspired by different performance styles such as clown, buffoon, mask and Butoh dance.

MAGALI TOSATO writes and directs dramatic texts, documentary theater pieces, as well as object theater pieces, mostly with the company she co-founded, mikro-kit. She was born in Lausanne (CH) and studied directing at the Hochschule für Schauspielkunst ‘Ernst Busch’ Berlin. Her artistic research interests focus on individual and collective processes of emancipation in a world permeated by patterns of exclusion. How can we succeed in making racist and sexist structures visible and breaking them up in the theater? Her projects are based on research work and (auto-)biographical narratives. Following the concept of microhistory, large, complex contexts are made tangible and critically reflected upon through small, singular experiences.