Thursday, May 14, 2009

Encountering Mit

Having run away from home at the age nine, to lose himself in a world of vivid color and too many dawns spent with his knees kissing the ground in prayer, Mit Jai Inn is a big believer of karma. He believes in one’s deeds being core to having shaped the past, the present and a reason to base the future upon. This chakra of cause and effect has never failed him, he believes and those who walk in and out of his life bring about exchangeable energies to draw from. There are no coincidences in life, says the man who choose to marry his poetess wife five minutes into having met her. 

He speaks of choices and how the ones we make are never the ones we must, but almost always the ones we need. He believes his grandfather, an artist who painted the Buddha image all his life, influenced his decision to become a painter. It is ingrained in him, he states, in his blood in his soul in the very formations of his existence. 

A life of constant manic chaos, of escalated living, Mit was kicked out of six different universities mostly due to his lack of attendance and has never actually graduated. At sixteen he wanted to be a writer, but wrote poorly despite constantly working on it. He eventually gave it up in a decision to solely create visual art. Living in Europe in the 80s, his brand of art with its peculiar choice of color was an anomaly. He tells me he had a million trillion friends, all of whom would leave with him. Pack up and move from place to place every three months, living in empty spaces and falling asleep under open skies. Art was never a reason for the trading of material wealth and he preferred objects of daily necessity in exchange for his creations. Fortune telling, the other pinnacle of his youth long buried under the tissues of time, he practice with an accuracy that he recounts would scare those upon whom his readings were done.  

He holds my hands in his and reads my fortune. His hands are the color of burnt honey and press on mine to create vivid lines of mystical truths. These are the things he tells me: I am ambitious and have been an entity entirely independent of my parents since age ten. I am passionate and have parallel lines indicating great growing success throughout life. I will be happier with age; I will never find a home and will never remain in the same place for sheer restlessness. I love too much and too hard and wholly, recklessly and madly and without restraints. I am a girl with laughter like the dance of water sprites but my soul is heavy and my sadness will spread to places I will be unable to heal. I have too much hurt borne from the ones who created me and will forever carefully distribute it to all the other mortal webbings of my life. This will be useless, he tells me somberly. I shall never be able to give it all away and need to be more open to all that is foreign to my own world or it will sink me in deeper into dark things I am told to be very afraid of. I am strong, amoral, violent and fierce and have angels around me, to protect me and guide me, he tells me in genuine earnest. I am of the fifth gender; neither male nor female. I am the elevated state of being, fluid and with ability to love a mortal or an immortal forever. I am too sensitive to live and am in possession of ethereal beauty. I will never be able to be rid entirely of my need to be alone or my silenced hysteria of loneliness. I will always be compelled to do as I wish, setting me far from the perimeters of those who exist while I do.  

Closing my palm into a fist, he tells me the next lover I am on my back for shall be the one that lasts. 


Haseena Abdul Majid


Friday, May 8, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

12 Mit-ings

Mit Jai-Inn will be performing a 12 hour long interactive performance with 12 guest audiences on Saturday 9 May 2009 at the VWFA Project Room, KL in conjunction with his exhibition from 6 - 23 May 2009. The performance is open to the public for viewing from 12 noon - 12 midnight.

Infective Paint

When I traveled up to Chiang Mai last year, I was taken to Lamphun - a smaller and sleepier town half an hour away that was described as 700 years older than its more tourist friendly counterpart. Here is where Mit Jai-Inn sets his shop, running the studio 15 paces from the Lumphun museum where he lives with his wife, who leads the provincial instution as chief curator/archaeologist. 

The studio never has its shutters down, and looks both like a laboratory and a textile factory. Mit paints into the night when he’s not out and about town - working on Happenings, organising public art projects, being thrown out of discussion panels for being provocative - or withdrawing to the mountains for month-long meditation retreats. 

Mit has coined the word ‘Eukabeuk’ to describe something as elusive as his approach to art. It was also the name of the annual public art festival that supplanted the Chiang Mai Social Installation festival by the mid 90’s. Of course, the word means nothing, kind of like Dada. Mit explains, ‘When you say eukabeuk, your lung, and your mouth create a kind of rhythm, which some how does not have a meaning in very linguistic fashion. Then we consider the terms as a rhythm, it constitutes a kind of music which requires no dance. It is really an ephemeral condition. That is what we do things in the eukabeuk event. And that certainly is changing over times, but what is left is the contemplation of any moment we move by.’

While he tried finding words to make sense of a head space I could barely grasp in my unaltered state of awareness, my eyes wandered to the work desks, and the rolls of tiled geometric canvases washed in bright day-glo oil. It repeats itself endlessly - variations are subtle and economical. The task seems interminable and infinite but Mit tries to make me understand how they constitute a puzzle game, a problem solving exercise. 

First there’s the reason for choosing to work with pastel colours that give off a special kind of bright and gaily glow. This opaqueness means something. For Mit, there is something transparent about pastel. The colour tone demonstrates clarity, a fluorescence of living we pretend to forget, or turn our face away from. Having it occupy our space, our living space, changes things. After all, these canvasses, never wholly two dimensional (they can be propped up, folded, hanged like laundry), often remind us that they take up real space, alter our environment. There’s no picture plane to recess into by offering a window into another world. Flat, intrusive, affective - they take to where we put them in. 

‘Painting is treated skeptically these days, and somehow it has been forgotten for many decades since the world has come to the point where everything is skeptical any way,’ referring to global art discourse, he added, ‘However, I believe we can reconceptualise painting after its modernist endgame, not in terms of the material alone, but also how we paint, essentially I should say, the way we paint. So the canvas is not a major concern if we are no longer too suspicious of the material alone.’ 

Mit’s work is conscious about the history of painting in many ways. In a sense, there’s the utopian gesture that is paradoxically embedded in the destructive system of Mondrian's oeuvre that Mit is unafraid to reference, using this goal as a way to explore a reductive style that transpires the nihilism of minimalist art and its subsequent absorption into high style furnishing. While Mit’s canvas intrudes into real-time space like a Donald Judd sculpture, it’s no longer the self-absorbed phenomenological encounter the viewer has with an art object. The canvas is declarative - as international flag, as social banner, as a spiritual mat. Its open-endedness is less of a loss of meaning than a call for more meaningful engagement and relationship. Unlike Mondrian’s systematic abandonment of the individual into a transcendent universalism, Mit’s social project begins by acknowledging the discrete units in a social relationship. It takes two to tango. 

Coming from the late-eighties generation of relational art speak, there’s always the social factor that falls into discourse. He told me, while handing me a few samples, ’You can do anything you want with it, it is a social object. You can wear it over you, or rolled it up, cut it into tiny pieces to sell it, framed it, do whatever you want with it. But try putting it in your living room or your toilet, so that you will live with its energy, and if others come to it, it will change them too. It is entirely up to you what you want to call it. It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that its energy can heal you and change you.’

by Simon Soon

Visiting Mit's Studio in December 2008

About Mit Jai-Inn

Mit Jai-Inn (b.  1960, Thailand) is the founder of the Chiang Mai Social Installation (CMSI) in the early nineties. The CMSI was a non-commercial art space that evolved as a direct refusal of neo-liberalist trends to appropriate Thai-ness and Buddhist iconography for commercial reasons. Another main objectives of the CMSI was to liberate art from the gallery and incorporate it into the city of Chiang Mai. Differing forms of art were presented inside the ancient walls of Chiang Mai, on the canals, in Buddhist temples as well as cemeteries. Mit has participated in Tropical Nights: Lost in Paradise at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2006). His most recent solo exhibition are 11:11 Freedom from the Known at Angkrit Gallery, Chiang Mai (2009) and Don't Be Happy. Do Be Worried: Fifteenth Anniversay of Worrying About: Global Climate Change/ Shifting World Views/ Social Collapse/ Cult of Bourgeois Rectitude/ Chiang Mai Social Installation Project. Art is Over at Ver Gallery, Bangkok (2007). Today he lives and works in Lamphun province with his wife, Pen Pakata, who he still considers to be a beautiful young poet.