– Autumn/Winter 2003

Work, Action, Production: Three Parallel Voices on the Art of Surasi Kusolwong

Charles Esche

Screaming at the top of his voice, Surasi Kusolwong wants to sell us something. In his homemade market he is CEO of the retail trade as well as its main salesman. Sometimes disguised in a blonde wig, slipping out of the mild, clichéd Thai character, the artist becomes the desperate, but still entertaining, shopping MC.

His goods are all sold at the same low price (€1, $1, etc.), all plastic, all 'throw-away', all 'Asian' and all at their most desirable just at the moment of purchase. As the market sells out, the physical structure of the sales point gradually emerges. Primary-coloured, geometric tables lie revealed, a simple patterning that might, given their appearance in a gallery, recall a certain legacy from modernist art and design. The money from the market similarly stands mute in a Plexiglas cube, a Robert Morris collection box from a minimalist's bazaar.

As soon as the market starts, push through the crowd that's already gathered round the tables. You reach out to grab what you want as quickly as possible. Ideally you've sized up the goods before the opening and checked your route to the most beautiful/kitsch item you saw. Listen to the music, the rhythm of the voice screaming for your custom, the enchantment of the multitude in movement, collectively striving for their singular choice. Think about not paying the charge, after all it would be easy to get away with it in this melée. For a long moment, as this whole process unfolds, your consciousness of the artfulness of it all almost vanishes. This is simple happy consumption, a game to play, a better prize than your neighbour to win.

  1. Maurizio Lazzarato, http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9908/msg00067.html

  2. Ibid.

  3. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998

  4. Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience, Liz Heron (trans.), London: Verso, 1993

  5. Ibid.