The forms of energy pertaining to the gamut of empirical observation are myriad and diverse. To formulate a baseline of understanding observable forces surrounding human experience, certain assumptions have been established throughout modernity to account for at least those energies that seem to exist in phenomena. Within the construct of SI (International System of Units), one possible standard by which to define energy, the most fundamental unit used for scientific applications in physics as the Joule (J), which then corresponds to 1 Newton Meter (Nm).
Other units of energy which may be familiar in daily lexicon include energy units for electricity in the form of watts, or kilowatts, which is then related to voltage, or the difference in electric potential between two points. In batteries, for instance, the two measurements, wattage, and volts, are commonly intertwined to describe the dormant potential energy stored within its cells. Aside from its relationship to electricity, forms of energy are also often measured in relation to heat. The calorie, a unit of energy commonly used to describe biological processes, is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of water by a certain degree. On a cellular level, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is an organic compound composed of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen that generates energy in living cells, which happens mostly in a component of the cell called the mitochondria. When scaled up into a much larger scale, various exothermic reactions, similar to what occurred inside the mitochondria, provide energy for entire civilizations through the engineering that goes into electrical powerplants.
From the moment an energy source manifests itself in some form in a powerplant, be it through the collection of solar energy upon an array of photo-voltaic panels, the incineration of fossil fuels, the streaming of water through a dam, or the splitting of uranium in a nuclear chain reaction, to the point that it reaches a convenient power socket in a home which may in turn provide the energy to activate a plethora of complex human devices, countless forms of electrical and energy transformations occur throughout the way. Energy is burst, processed, stored, contracted, synthesized, magnetized, and distributed in various states of flux throughout a dizzying array of complex interweaving cable lines, antennae, and in more recent years interstellar satellites that orbit the earth beyond the atmosphere. This is perhaps a critical point that humanity has become adept at organizing, manipulating, and in doing so is capable of transforming energy on countless degrees and scales for various ends.
But what of those forms of energy that may not be so easily quantifiable, or perhaps virtually invisible, under strictly scientific phenomenological inquiry, of forces that confound conventional categorization? That certain conditions where unusual, seemingly paradoxical situations may come to being on a sub-atomic level of energy, such as things being and not being at the same time, or existing in more than one place simultaneously, or beyond singular dimensions, is a field of research under the purview of quantum physics, and yet this relatively new field is itself continuously evolving, and shape-shifting in light of novel discoveries and at some point reaches a sort of abstraction due to the sheer complexities of the speculative hypotheses it entails.
Is it possible that when it comes to the epistemology of this type of energy, the type of energy that transcends the material, or a metaphysical energy, that strictly naturalistic methodologies of scientific inquiry may be, in and of itself, inherently fallacious? Perhaps it may not be surprising that attempting to ascertain the properties of what is, by definition, beyond the realm of the physical, utilizing the limited apparatus of those things that exist within the physical yields contradictory conclusions.
In theological terms related to many of the main religions of the world, the doctrine of transcendence considers the material world to be completely detached in terms of its relation to the spiritual. It stresses the ontological separation between the material and the metaphysical. This implies that energies present in the natural world circulate within a closed system with no bearing or influence upon or by any other form. If scientific theory has not fully understood the properties of certain energies, it is only because the formulae has just not been fully developed. There is no possible attribution beyond the natural dimension.
Eastern philosophy suggests an alternative methodology of reasoning as it relates to energy, however. In Chinese culture, there exists the concept of Qi, which is considered to be an energy, or life force, present in all living beings. To harness, nurture, and balance this energy, a wholly dissimilar way of looking in comparison to, say, western medicine, in the form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Qigong, and meditation. The closest analogy to this concept in Hindu culture is the idea of prana, or the Greek psyche in ancient philosophy. The way that Qi is considered presents an interesting case example, as it is on one hand related and gaugeable in relation to its physical manifestation in some way, sometimes through words such as hot and cold (akin to exothermic/endothermic reactions), but at the same time related to a part of the consciousness or spirit the astral realm. Interestingly, energy is seen in this context pertaining towards a certain hybridity between the tangible and the intangible.
This exhibition presents the practices of Atit Sornsongkram, Tanatchai Bandasak, Saroot Supasuthivech, and Supawich Weesapen, who have been developing distinctive conceptual practices in the mediums of photography, installation/sculpture, video, and painting respectively. This exhibition arose out of a series of chance, seemingly random, encounters that eventually accumulated into a sort of enmeshed intuition to develop something further together. Without a preconceived notion of final outcome, a series of informal gatherings and conversations, the intention to develop a presentation together began to emerge. This exhibition rested upon a certain assumption, or a “leap of faith” of sorts, that this confluence of conditions would translate into something beyond the sum of its parts. Slowly, a certain discrete, shared attitude begun to emerge, an attitude difficult to encapsulate in words and therefore more decipherable through a pictorial image, more specifically in the form of . The symbol itself exists in a state of transformation depending on its application on various computer operating systems, ranging from a shape much more akin to a spiral, to a form that more closely resembles the symbol used to depict tropical cyclones. Perhaps the nature of this form is analogous to the attitude of the presentation itself, of the utilization of a pictorial metaphor to elucidate something its own image is unable to encapsulate fully. But it also speaks about an essential aspect of this exhibition, that each artist utilizes their respective craft to wield and transform an intangible collective sensibility that is then translated into their own respective language.
Tanatchai Bandasak’s sculptural piece, Do you dear youกุpractice everyday?rece is e reef efr is e begins its life on the surface of a cellular device LCD screen, most likely during a number of moments in Bandasak’s pant pocket whereby a confluence of specific conditions were met which allowed the abrasions between the threads or lining of the pocket and the surface of the monitor, which in turn resulted in an inimitable aesthetic situation. Firstly, that unbeknownst to Bandasak, the Notes application on his phone happened turn on itself in his pocket. Secondly, that the friction between his pocket and the phone occurred in a certain sequence whereby the text, Do you dear youกุpractice everyday?rece is e reef efr is e, which includes both English and Thai alphabets, began to emerge. Furthermore, the pen function within the Notes application was then somehow activated, and again a very specific rasping of the touch screen surface resulted in a black, blue, and lime green line-based abstraction.
Two forms of abstraction therefore emerged through electrical impulses as translated through the silicon microprocessors of Bandasak’s phone in the form of a linguistic arrangement as well as a pictorial formation. This digital image was then materialized into the physical as an engraving carved into a slab of travertine. Do you dear youกุpractice everyday?rece is e reef efr is e exemplifies the potentialities of mutation in energy Bandasak deftly manoeuvres, negotiates, and operates upon. He begins by casting a net of sorts that in effect attempts to capture the energies of the haphazard through the utilization of a mobile phone, a ubiquitous device available to anyone, that creates a stored residue in the form of specific digital data. The residue of this data is then translated further, in a very deliberate manner, as it is inscribed into stone. This is perhaps a critical point of intersection to contemplate upon: Bandasak essentially formulates a methodology of accumulating the dormant energies of the coincidental surrounding him and transforms this energy into a concrete, sculptural form. The work is then placed outside of the exhibition space itself and into the outdoors, perhaps once again allowing the forces of chance in the form of nature to imprint itself upon the work. The piece itself is illuminated at night by two spotlights, that are themselves powered by sunlight.
Bandasak’s piece Untitled takes the form of a found garden hose component placed on a corner of the exhibition space, which connects the floor and the wall. Deceptively unassuming, Bandasak utilizes a quotidian material for the purpose of capturing the potential energy of a garden hose in connecting water from a city’s drainage system to the life of a garden. Untitled therefore presents the case for metaphor as a means to initiate energy transformation, as there is also something to be said about taking an object which otherwise would have been discarded, and presenting it’s potentiality in an exhibition space, perhaps personifying a sense of empathy or character upon an inanimate object in doing so. The object is itself stiff like a piece of wood, or perhaps akin to a fossil, but Bandasak invites the viewer to imagine the piece changing as running stream of water goes through it, as it becomes malleable and elastic as it performs its function of connecting a source of water with the plants it is directed towards. Bandasak invites the viewer to perhaps imagine the activation of the piece in relation to the vertical orientation of the piece on the corner of the exhibition space, rooted on the floor of the exhibition space, pulling energy upwards into the trunk of a tree, like a blood vessel that transports energy from one place to another, activated only as a blood stream passes through.
In his exhibition catalogue for the exhibition, “Passing a Window I Glanced Into It” at Gallery VER, Atit Sornsongkram suggests in an interview that he is “… interested in the stage of being photo and medium and the place within the photo… about what exactly a photograph is, where its boundary lies…” This concern regarding the ontological nature of where the limits of the photographic image are elaborated further in his works Stones, and Corner which converse between each other and alludes to a certain conceptual universe-building captured through the vantage point of his photographic practice. In Stones, Sornsongkram proposes a set of enormous rock formations engulfing the main exhibition space at NOVA. The scale of these rocks seem to be consciously ambiguous, however, and it appears as if these rocks could either be very small, relative to how large the fragments of sand below appear to be, or extremely large, in relative comparison to the exhibition space itself. In effect, then, Stones suggests the potential energy of a photographic image in its ability to stretch a conception of space within the mind into a paradox. Essentially, Sornsongkram simultaneously stretches and shrinks the exhibition space in the mind’s eye by inserting visual cues of relative measure in his image. The space is somehow rendered miniscule and gargantuan at the same time. Corner utilizes a subtle photographic transformation to induce another mental quandary, which again leads to more questions regarding epistemic notions of reality. In this work, an architectural element of the space, a corner protrusion, is removed altogether. Does this suggest, then, that there exists another dimension in the reality presented by Sornsongkram’s work that suggests an ‘’ideal” of what the space is. Perhaps his works bring unto the surface the notion of Platonic forms as it relates to photography. There is something interesting as well in the ways in which Sornsongkram and Bandasak both respond to different corners of the space, one by conceptually removing an architectural element, whereas the other interjects a space by adding an object instead. In unison, Stones and Corner stretch the possibilities of how a photographic image may assert composite ideas into synapses of the mind.
Supawich Weesapen presents three paintings that perhaps entertain a number of speculations and curiosities, chief of which is the idea of what would happen if a brush could be used to convert paint into electricity? Or on the contrary, can energies in natural occurrences such as thunder and lightning translate into painting, not only in terms of form, but also in terms of a certain imminent force? In the Biblical Book of Exodus, a burning bush plant is utilized as a metaphor as a bridge between the transcendental in relation to the material. Weesapen’s Illuminated incorporates an image of a glowing figure half-entering a bush-like structure in the middle of the night. The nature of this figure, whether human, or representing a more spiritual apparition, is yet to be known. But perhaps this figure represents this in-between state, where the physical and supernatural meets, where intangible energies pervade into physical manifestation. Weesapen’s A Purple Lightning and The Green Lightning represent the natural occurrence of electrostatic discharge between a cloud formation and the ground. It is as if this rapid, almost instantaneous moment, where a seismic quantity of electric energy is released, is frozen in time in Weesapen’s painting. In the cases of these two works, it is as if the abrupt nature of this electricity is stored in some way through the pictorial form. It is almost as if, in Weesapen’s painting, that his image building is akin to the idea of photography, capturing flashes of rapid moments existing in his imagined universe in a certain perpetuity through his paintings.
Saroot Supasuthivech practice involves a multifarious research approach regarding specific geographical locations with an emphasis on both a sociohistorical context in concurrence with an attempt to understand a certain sacrosanct, or mystical structure that perhaps correlates with what occurs in those places. I Seek Refuge in the Perfect Words begins as an exploration regarding a Muslim community living beside the Chao Praya River for many generations, and how they have attempted to retain many of their traditionally held beliefs and customs despite the constant metamorphosis of their surrounding environments as it relates to the sprawling modernization of Bangkok. Most recently, a super complex multifunction shopping mall, apartment complex, and convention center which has recently completed construction adjacent to the community. Perhaps an apt metaphor depicting the contrast between modernity in relation to the Suwannabhumi Mosque within the village community. Supasuthivech utilizes the moving image for the purposes of documenting certain aesthetic facets of the neighborhood: the architecture of the simple shelters they have built, the natural landscape and banana trees that the community preserves, as well as the constant flow of water that is the Chao Praya River, which has provided a lifeline for many generations past. At a certain point throughout the video, Supasuthivech shifts the concentration of his image upon an expanse of water from the Chao Praya, that devoid of other visual reference cues seems to transform into a certain abstract entity. This is interpolated at several points of the work with images and sounds of crackling fire.
The narrative delicately then shifts its gaze upon the birth of a mythical entity relevant to the community, a Jinn, as it enters its existence through the embers of conflagration. At this point the moving image itself blurs, fades, burns and changes speed more abruptly, and a voice, taken from Google A.I., begins to recite verses from an Islamic Prayer. The footage then metamorphosizes into an enigmatic pixelated, three-dimensional environment that revolves around a floating, fiery rectangular form. It is in this shift that Supasuthivech captures a sensibility, or perception, of a spiritual energy. It may be worth noting that he utilizes the language of rendering, a visual language based in more recent computer programming, to convey the aura of the transcendent. The video accelerates in speed at a certain point, reverting back to images anchored in his own found footage and it becomes unclear whether it is moving backwards or forwards, until the image is again replaced by another colored digital rendering of the vicinity, taken from a bird’s eye view, as if the Jinn that initially arrived through fire in the beginning of the video appears to be floating away from the land.
I Seek Refuge in the Perfect Words connects a dual narrative, one involving a community living alongside the Chao Praya River adjusting, perhaps resisting, the forces of change that inevitably will encroach upon their future existence, with the birth of a spiritual entity as its own presence eventually transmutes into another dimension of existence. The work is a lyrical microcosm reflecting the constant negotiation between progress in relation to the current state of things. How perhaps there may perhaps indeed be a place of refuge, where the energies of the spirit world and world of man may coexist. Perhaps it may be postulated, then, that these two worlds may not be so different, after all?