Within dense urban grids universally, parking spaces are much sought after and generally taken for granted. Car parks are transitory spaces where you park or un-park your car and at the same time, stare at a few blank walls as you go. Designed as multi-storey or underground, they seem to be tagged on like afterthoughts,as though they are invisible
appendages to large shopping malls or office blocks. Generally characterless, most people think of them as dark, smelly places – necessary to our existence in a city but at the same time, spaces that can be easily dismissed to the realm of being ‘non-places’ in our minds.
As the current debate heats up about whether the Bangkok city authorities will build us a museum with a car park or, a car park with a museum, I collaborate with architect Savinee Buranasilapin and turn this exhibition space into a parking area. The existing space remains unchanged – it is merely inhabited differently. In turn, it is also entirely possible to enter car park spaces to create new and different situations without changing the original function of the place. It’s a question of how to engage people through the experience of art within the integral experience of the city.
DRAWINGS AND PROJECTS
I’m not interested in taking a side in what might be classified as a political debate. Division here can only be a positive force, in that it gets people to talk more, and to develop their own opinions about art, where art should be placed, what a contemporary Thai art museum should be, and so on. This ‘free parking’ show, for example, has the possibility of taking the debate beyond parking/no parking/museum/no museum, to explore other issues about the nature of Western/Asian/Thai art museums, the position of art in Thai vs. Western cultures, the relationship of art and commerce in contemporary Thailand, etc. There can be no easy answers here; only questions and endless negotiation.
When Varsha invited me to collaborate with her, I initially accepted the project as an opportunity to make something, to work with a local artist, and to force myself into an unfamiliar art/cultural context. Watching the controversy unfold, I’m increasingly interested not in one art museum project over another, but in the way in which a political situation will impact architecture. Here are two “projects”, and it is likely that neither one of them will be built. So many things are beyond our control – the best we can manage is speculative proposals. Even if it is built, will it be built as drawn? Will it be used as planned?
Architects are rarely builders. We are drafters. We draw, from vast city plans down to the minutia of a single joint. Maybe our drawing will be used in the realization of a building, but the building always stands apart, always differs from the project of the architect. Here, Varsha has given me an opportunity to create an architecture that is real – acting upon space, acting upon politics, and yet remains a drawing – a description of boundaries with tape, chalk lines, and spray paint. This is not a parking lot, but a project. Projected, it attempts to describe the divisions that define this controversial moment in our culture.
“free parking”, by Varsha Nair and Savinee Buranasilapin. A site specific installation on the 7th floor Art Gallery at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok in August 2002. The installation consisted of drawing, slide projections and 2 sound elements.