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).
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.