The se­cond Chiang Mai De­si­gn Week confirms the go­vern­ment’s stra­te­gy to trans­form arts& crafts, a sec­tor of Thai­land’s eco­no­my which is strug­gling, by brin­ging de­si­gn and in­no­va­tion to its res­cue.

La ré­in­ter­pré­ta­tion du vase, à dif­fé­rentes échelles avec des ma­té­riaux lo­caux, me­née par l’ate­lier hol­lan­dais NL ( Na­dine Sterk et Con­ny Van Ryswyck).

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Among all the dif­ferent events, shows and lec­tures, the Thai­land Crea­tive and De­si­gn Cen­ter ( TCDC) – foun­ded in 1999 when Asia was going through its fi­nan­cial cri­sis – was de­si­gned as a tool to pro­mote de­ve­lop­ment. Here, de­si­gn is consi­de­red as a le­ver to bring ru­ral arts& crafts clo­ser to a new generation of crea­tive people and young en­tre­pre­neurs, of­ten gra­duates of Eu­ro­pean schools. “The Fes­ti­val positions itself half- way between cul­ture and bu­si­ness,” says In­tha­phan Bua­keow, di­rec­tor of TCDC. “Our ob­jec­tive is to en­cou­rage De­si­gn Thin­king and to sup­port the de­ve­lop­ment of de­si­gn in Thai­land. On the theme of “New Ori­gi­nals”, the shows or­ga­ni­sed by TCDC of­fer a space for dia­logue and en­coun­ters between coun­tries, such as for example with the “Trans­fert( s)” and “Ce­le­bra­ting Life of El­der­ly People” shows, the for­mer or­ga­ni­sed by the French Ins­ti­tute and the French Em­bas­sy in Bang­kok, and the lat­ter by the Fine Art School of Chiang Mai and the Uni­ver­si­ty Al­var Aal­to in Hel­sin­ki. “Since the TCDC ope­ned in Chiang Mai four years ago – and where Ma­te­rial Connexion ( ele­ven branches around the world) chose to set up a consul­ta­tion space with a da­ta­base of 7,500 ma­te­rials – we are al­rea­dy get­ting through to a large au­dience. It is a slow pro­cess. Our aim is to in­tro­duce tech­no­lo­gy and in­no­va­tion in­to craft­work using lo­cal ma­te­rials such as rub­ber and bio- plas­tics. It’s a po­li­ti­cal stra­te­gy,” adds Im­ha­thai Kun­ji­na, pro­ject ma­na­ger at TCDC. As part of the event, the initiative taken by Ch­loé Braun­stein, cu­ra­tor in col­la­bo­ra­tion with Sam Ba­ron, ar­tis­tic di­rec­tor of Fa­bri­ca, was in kee­ping with the aims of Chiang Mai De­si­gn Week. The “Trans­fer( s)” show brought to­ge­ther 18 pro­jects by craft wor­kers using four dif­ferent ma­te­rials: bam­boo, ce­ra­mic, lac­quer and fa­bric. This work­shop brought to­ge­ther the Nocc stu­dio ( Juan Pa­blo Na­ran­jo and Jean Chris­tophe Orth­lieb) and Char­lotte Juillard for France; and the Thinkk stu­dio ( De­cha Ar­ch­ja­na­nun and Ploy­pan Thee­ra­chaï) and Rush Plean­suk for Thaï­land. “We ope­ned a dia­logue between us in a joint ef­fort to create a col­lec­tion, dis­cus­sing eve­ry­thing from the ini­tial thought pro­cess to the de­si­gn and pro­duc­tion, buil­ding a com­mon lan­guage from the va­rious know- hows of each par­ti­ci­pant,” says Ch­loé Braun­stein. Af­ter se­lec­ting craft wor­kers from each of the four dis­ci­plines, the de­si­gners spent two weeks in im­mer­sion tes­ting out their concepts with the ex­cel­lence of each craft wor­ker, while trying to avoid ste­reo­types. This cultu­ral over­lap­ping en­abled a new com­mon aes­the­tic ap­plied to new func­tions to emerge. The re­sults were made pu­blic du­ring the Chiang Mai De­si­gn Week and shown at the Al­liance Fran­çaise in Bang­kok in Fe­brua­ry, and will be shown in Pa­ris at the Sen­tou Ga­le­rie next spring. The edi­tor Pierre Ro­ma­net is plan­ning to com­mer­cia­lise cer­tain pieces from the “Trans­fert( s)” show on the French mar­ket. Ano­ther pro­ject ini­tia­ted by Sarng­san No Soon­torn, tea­cher at Ens­ci- Les Ate­liers in Pa­ris, dealt with age- old tech­niques for making phy­sio­the­ra­py tools in part­ner­ship with the Chiang Mai hos­pi­tal. “Mai Kam”, the pro­ject crea­ted by Sacha Pa­rent and Hen­ri Fra­chon, is a crutch made of bam­boo and cane that weighs 200 grammes, that can be ma­nu­fac­tu­red ve­ry qui­ck­ly at a ve­ry mo­dest cost. As part of the “Here and there” pro­ject, the Pan­tang stu­dio ( Arthur Vergne, Pat­cha­ra­da In­plang, Su­vitch­pong Asa­na­chin­ta and Wi­sa­rut Po­tik­lang) de­si­gned a ver yin no­va­ti­veearth qua­ke­re­sis­tant st ruc­tur et ha te­nables safe and eco­no­mi­cal buil­ding and scaf­fol­ding construc­tion. Ano­ther de­mons­tra­tion in the ex­change of col­la­bo­ra­tion between Hol­land and Thai­land, is the NL work­shop, ins­pi­red by the res­pect for and mul­ti­pli­ci­ty of craft tech­niques in Chiang Mai; they as­ked se­ve­ral craft wor­kers to rein­ter­pret a vase de­si­gned and made in Hol­land. Each one tells a dif­ferent story, de­pen­ding on his area of ex­per­tise and his cul­ture. These pro­jects put the hu­man back in the centre of the pro­ject; they ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship between past and present and alert the pu­blic to the va­lue of or­di­na­ry ob­jects. These events or­ga­ni­sed by Chiang Mai De­si­gn Week of­fer a subtle over­view of the dia­logue between ru­ral and ur­ban, and between craft wor­ker and de­si­gner, that must be pre­ser­ved. It al­so points out the im­por­tance of main­tai­ning and fur­ther de­ve­lo­ping the eco­no­my of the re­gions and of the coun­try.

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