Re-Reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen

Re-Reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen

When : May 14 – September 30,2011

Where : Jim Thompson Art Center

Category : Event / Art Galleries

Updated by : admin


Who : Jim Thompson Art Center

What / Why :

The Re-reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen Exhibition is based on a folk tale which gradually developed into an important Siamese literary work. First composed by storytellers during the Ayutthaya period, Khun Chang Khun Paen was revised, adapted and expanded by court poets and authors including Khru Janeg, Sunthorn Phu, King Rama II and Prince Damrong. Recently translated by renowned scholars and social critics, Dr. Chris Baker and Dr. Pasuk Phongpaichit, the English edition is entitled “The Tales of Khun Chang Khun Phaen”. The translation and printing of this work was funded in part by a grant from the James H.W. Thompson Foundation. 

According to the translators, “Unlike much old Thai literature which deals with exploits of gods and kings and is often based on foreign originals, the tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen developed locally, was probably based on a true story and rambles all over the social landscape. Moreover, like epics and sagas which were developed in an oral tradition of repeated interaction between performers and audiences, the tales reflects the value of its society of origin. Hence Khun Chang Khun Phaen is potentially a unique source on social relation and attitudes. However, it is also a complex source because its development passed through two distinct phases, one in local folk tradition, and other in the royal court. Yet this complexity can also be revealing on the contrast of folk and court values.”* Over time, the structure of the Khun Chang Khun Phaen story shifted, and the language used was adapted by different authors from colloquial to more official style. The translators spent seven years researching the background to the tale, finding lost versions, and compiling footnotes to explain words, ideas, things, and practices not well known today. 

The exhibition demonstrates that there are multiple layers of subtexts which can be shared with contemporary audiences through various art forms. Rare and extraordinary illustrations by Hem Vejakorn are featured, as well as an illuminated painting by Chakrabhand Posayakrit, a leading neo-traditional artist who drew inspiration from several Thai literary works including Khun Chang Khun Phaen. In contrast to these two artists, Bruce Gundersen reconstructs the myth and legendary characters in digital photography format and Kornkrit Jianpinidnan follows Khun Phaen’s routes around the old capital of Ayutthaya and Suphanburi. Performing artist, Pradit Prasartthong creates a new performance by reinventing Wanthong’s character. In addition, related cultural artifacts such as costumes, films, performances and cartoons are displayed in the exhibit along with the timeline. 

*Note : Review article, Taming Women in Khun Chang Khun Phaen, Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit, Legendary Folk epic, Khun Chang Khun Phaen, Sepha, Performance, Power, War, Love, Lust and Tragedy, Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat, 2011 




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