– Spring/Summer 2019

Other Faces: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's Interspecies Engagements

Filipa Ramos

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Two Planets: Millet’s The Gleaners and the Thai Farmers, 2008, single-channel video, 14min 43sec. Courtesy the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York

When I was a child, I believed that art was an exit for life, to somewhere purer, cleaner, more innocent. When I grew older I realised it wasn’t the case. The caring for dogs when they are sick and wounded became something very special for me. So that is the way in which these dogs came to be a part of my life and also a part of my art.
– Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook1

I’m in my living room watching a video by Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook on the computer. Seated on top of me, one of my cats is watching it too; her inquisitive expression and the fast movement of her muzzle and ears make me guess she’s interested in the songbirds we both hear chirping but don’t see. As in other works by the consecrated multimedia Thai artist, plenty is going on off-screen. We are looking at Millet’s The Gleaners and Thai Farmers (2008), a 15-minute video from the Two Planets (2007–08) series, which documents the artist presenting groups of villagers with replicas of famous works from Western art history, often displayed in profusely ornate golden frames. In this case a small group of farmers is looking at Jean-François Millet’s

  1. Declaration by the artist during the ‘Subjective Histories of Sculpture’, talk organised by the SculptureCenter in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Arts and Politics, New York, 7 April 2014. For Thai names, this text follows the Thai convention of abbreviating to first name.

  2. Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (trans. Alphonso Lingis), Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969, p.198.

  3. David Teh, ‘“The Lowest Form of Person”: Dogs, Excess and Symbolic Exchange in Contemporary Thailand’, in Lucy Davis (ed.), Focas 6: Regional Animalities, Singapore: Forum on Contemporary Art and Society, 2007, pp.22–24.

  4. John Llewelyn, ‘Am I Obsessed by Bobby? (Humanism of the Other Animal)’, in Robert Bernasconi and Simon Critchley (ed.), Re-Reading Levinas, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991, p.235.

  5. Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Bobby’s Face, My Love’, Wild Dogs Dreaming – Love and Extinction, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011, pp.30–31.

  6. Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008, p.17.