Unseen Scala

Art January 28, 2013 00:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to

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Contemporary artists from the UK and Thailand join forces for this country's first micro-festival


When I first saw the advance material for “Live at the Scala, a micro festival”, I thought one of my favourite rock bands was reuniting. I was wrong. This is actually a micro-festival of live performance, video and installation arts from the UK presented with Thai artists’ works and as they take place all the same evening, there’s no need for any of us to worry about the traffic.
   Better still, thanks to the British Council, we’re also being given the chance to revisit a favourite cinema, one where the movie tickets are still not computerised and where the ushers wear yellow tuxedo jackets.
   Bangkok is also scoring a first by hosting Asia’s debut micro festival: the Tokyo Performing Arts Market (TPAM) in Yokohama will follow in mid-February.
   “I came here in the autumn to look at different venues and Scala was the first one we visited. We also went to the Pridi Banomyong Institute, WTF Gallery and a few conference venues whose names I can’t remember. But in the end, it’s the sense of affection that people have for Scala and the resonance that the building has that made us choose it. It seemed like a lovely place to stage our micro-festival,” says festival director Andy Field, founder of Forest Fringe whose works have been a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival since 2007 and who has been creating micro festivals at various sites since 2010.
   “And we’ve tried to programme it so that all the works we have here explore our relationship with cinema. Hopefully, people will notice this connection when they see these works.”
   Speaking of Forest Fringe’s connection to the Scala, Field says, “In Edinburgh, we also started in an old building. There’s always the sense that we don’t actually belong there – that it’s meant for somebody or something else and we’re just trying to fit in and trying to find ways so that people can see it in a different way.”
   Forest Fringe and the Scala also share the same ticketing system. “Even today, we’re still the only organisation who writes all tickets by hand in Edinburgh,” Field says.
At the Old Vic Theatre in Bristol, Forest Fringe’s micro festival shifted the routine of theatre-going by “leading the audience through the backstage corridor into the paint shop where we set up a bar and seats for the audience who later moved to other small spaces and corners in the building.
   “It’s like suggesting to the audience that maybe this is a little different, and we’re going to ask them to think differently about their relationship with the building and the art works they see there.”
   “And so when you go to the Scala, instead of getting your ticket and then your popcorn, you’ll see that the biggest show of the night [a performance for a bar titled ‘A Western’ by Action Hero] happens outside the main auditorium, in the lobby. It’s an attempt to recreate cowboy movies, in a slow and sultry atmosphere. Everyone will be brought together at the start here for an hour and then in the following hour, people have the opportunity to be more diffused and to watch other works at various sites, or they can just continue drinking at the bar. Part of the aim is to recreate the experience of freedom and informality of a festival within the course of an evening.
   “One of our biggest discoveries at the Scala is that there are dressing rooms and so we’ll use them too.”
   While some artists will bring works created elsewhere, others are creating new works specific to Bangkok. 
   “Richard DeDomenici’s works are playful, unpredictable and humorous in the way that he likes to engage with different places. He’ll set up a mini production studio in a dressing room and in the week he’ll be here, he’ll spend a great deal of time on the Skytrain attempting to remake the film ‘Bangkok Traffic Love Story’: he did a similar project in Germany. Audiences here can then look through the dressing room window and watch the film he’s made and see him working on the film as well as volunteer to help him.
   “Dickie Beau [a gay performance artist] will perform a small work in the main auditorium but we’re not going to fill up the seats [in consideration of other works in other corners of the Scala that can accommodate fewer audience numbers]. We always have to keep a balance: we’d like as many people as possible to come to see it, but we’d also like each individual’s experience of it to be complete. We’ve settled at the capacity of about 300 people per evening.”
   One of the reasons why site-specific performances are not so popular here as in other regions of the world is the temperature: we spend most of our time in air-conditioned rooms. Field has taken this into consideration and carefully chosen the works that the micro festival will present.
   “Brian Lobel’s ‘Hold My Hand and We’re Halfway There’ is like a dance marathon and he’ll dance for three hours every night. He’ll be downstairs at the street level and even people who haven’t bought tickets can join him by putting on headphones, watching the television sets and dancing along with him. Part of the idea is that he’s exploring the concept of exhaustion, as he was inspired by the dance marathons that are very popular in the US. Dance can be communal and lonely experiences at the same time. In New York, he did eight hours a day for five days, and that’s like normal working hours. So I think three hours would be too easy to make him sweat if it wasn’t with the heat and humidity.” 
   Thai artists are part of this too. B-Floor Theatre will rework their collection of solo works “Bangkok Molecules” and Messy Project Space will present two moving image works, “Gyre” by Austrian artist Bjorn Kammerer and video installation "The Vehicle of outword...(interior appearance)" by Kornkrid Jianpinidnan. They’ll also launch a special version of their magazine in form of live-magazine — individuals and collectives will submit their works to the e-printer in Scala.
   Field notes, “I’ve always been grass-rooted and that seems to be the spirit of both groups. They’re very interesting and interested in us. Part of the reason why we want to do this international project is to have a chance to meet people who are similar to us but working in a completely different context and start to build this international relationship that can be longer lasting. We can do more than just bring these UK products to Thailand.”
“Live at Scala” runs from February 7 to 9 at the Scala Theatre. Shows start at 7pm.
Tickets are Bt100, available at the Scala’s box office or at www.BritishCouncil.or.th. 
Watch a related video at www.NationMultimedia.com