Portikus under Water
Deutsche Bank Foundation Sponsors Project by Att Poomtangon
Bio-diversity, environment, nutrition—in his work, Thai artist Att Poomtangon investigates complex and highly urgent themes. Now, with the support of the Deutsche Bank Foundation, he has realized a project for the Portikus in Frankfurt.
||An exhibition space as a mystic water park: for his project On the Way to the Alps I See Sand (2009), Att Poomtangon has darkened and flooded the Portikus. The water is seventy centimeters deep in the Frankfurt exhibition hall—but visitors don’t need rubber boots, as a wooden jetty has been installed for their benefit. For the more adventurous, there are also over-sized plastic bowls and rubber tires to paddle through the exhibition. The models for these vessels are the improvised boats Thai fishermen go to sea with. The Portikus was able to realize this elaborate project thanks to the Deutsche Bank Foundation, which has been supporting the museum’s ambitious program for the past ten years.
In his site-specific installation, the artist, born 1973 in Bangkok, refers directly to the Portikus, which is situated on a small island in the Main. The river is the departure point for On the Way to the Alps I See Sand, which addresses the ecological situation in the Rhine/Main river region together with the decline in diversity among the species of fish living there. Poomtangon juxtaposes a western approach to the environment with the very different way of dealing with natural resources in his home country. On the Way to the Alps I See Sand is also a typical example for Poomtangon’s complex thought process. Att Poomtangon, a master student with Tobias Rehberger, investigates very real problems and from this exploration develops a formal arsenal that is both poetic and conceptual.
His work can currently be seen in Fare Mondi/ Making Worlds, this year’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale. On the grounds of the Arsenale is Keep Something for a Rainy Day—a structure made from colorful tubes in which the idea of the social sculpture merges with environment-friendly technology: art lovers parched by the heat can quench their thirst with fresh water.
Att Poomtangon’s playful, socially critical installations are based on extensive research that later becomes a part of the exhibition—as in his project for the Portikus, where texts, pictures, and statistics are installed on the walls for visitors to study as they paddle by. In the darkened exhibition space, only the fish-shaped lamp objects provide enough light to study the research material. The show’s almost mystical atmosphere recalls the mood in Thai temples. In Att Poomtangon’s native country, great value is placed on honoring the animal world. Fish aren’t merely hunted, but also kept alive in the temples, where people gather to feed and observe the fish.
On the Way to the Alps I See Sand is a part of the exhibition series MainWerk, a collaboration between the Polytechnic Society Foundation of Frankfurt am Main, the Städelschule, and the Portikus. Once each year, the museum shows an artwork created especially for the Portikus by a former Städelschule student who has successfully furthered his or her artistic career after graduation. Through the exhibition at the Portikus, the artist is brought back to Frankfurt, at least temporarily, and the work is presented to the city’s public.
Att Poomtangon: On the Way to the Alps I See Sand
7/25 – 9/6/2009
Portikus, Frankfurt am Main