The Things That Take Us Apart by Tada Hengsapkul

By Tan Lee Kuen (writer and photographer/Malaysia)

Emerging Thai photographer Tada Hengsapkul’s latest exhibition in Chiang Mai

Tada Hengsapkul is an emerging talent in the Thai photography scene; he was listed as one of Asia’s Top 30 Under 30 in the Arts by Forbes magazine last year. Well-known for his work on nudes and the youth, he was on a one-month residency in Chiang Mai resulting in his first solo exhibition in the city at Gallery Seescape.

Titled ‘The Things That Take Us Apart’, the project is a loose extension of an earlier work in 2011 called ‘Tong & Note’. Experimental and research-based, it is an examination of the natural human body with each other and also in relation to the space it is in.

At the entrance to the gallery space is a sign warning of nudity. The walls of the gallery space are painted a shocking pink and only has six large-sized photographs of young men and women in the buff on display. In one photograph, they are dancing to music we can only imagine while in another they are hugging one another. In yet another photograph, a woman is taking food from a buffet table.

Part of the process of the project was researching for a suitable venue as well as participants. Tada had placed an ad in the local newspaper looking for actors. Interested applicants had to go through an interview before eight people were finally chosen for the project. As to why the participants involved wanted to participate, the reason given was usually simple, a wish to do something a little different from their usual lives.

The venue was a chi chi nightclub in Chiang Mai, decorated in an old style. On the day of shoot, they prepared food, drinks and music, and for two hours, the participants to behaved as they wished while Tada photographed. Part of the beauty of this work is how at ease the participants seem to be in their own skin; their reaction to their own nudity with others a necessary component of the performance.

Tada has been compared to the likes of American photographer Ryan McGinley because of his work with nudes, and also Thai film director Apitchapong Weerasethakul for the dreamscape elements of his work. However, despite the references, the work is wholly his own. An exciting artist to watch.

Exhibition is on now until 19 February at Gallery Seescape, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tan Lee Kuen

She is a writer and photographer from Malaysia. She is also the founder of Asia PaperCamera, an online project celebrating photography in Asia with stories and interviews.

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