In these two shows, Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook used video and sculpture to ponder the role of women in Thai society as well as the life cycle, canine psychology, and Jeff Koons’s pornographic “Made in Heaven” paintings.
The SculptureCenter’s mid-career survey showcased Rasdjarmrearnsook’s more somber side. Much of the work tackled death in some way. In three videos from “The Class” (all 2005), Rasdjarmrearnsook gave Joseph Beuys–like lectures about death to real cadavers. While these required some knowledge of Theravada Buddhism, the most popular religion in Thailand, for full effect, they hit on something that transcends all cultures—the human desire to know what happens after life.
Animals, both living and dead, appeared often in these two shows. “Niranam,” the Tyler Rollins Fine Art show, amped up the gross-out factor of Rasdjarmrearnsook’s work with such videos as In a Blur of Desire (2007), a triptych of animals being killed in dank slaughterhouses. But Rasdjarmrearnsook’s work is better when it’s subtle, and the videos featuring her dogs were among the best in the show. In one, her paralyzed dog miraculously regains the power to run for an hour. The silent black-and-white video was a beautiful reminder of how, despite the inevitability of death, life can sometimes deliver unexpected beauty.
A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 81.