“Some dreams tremble, feel unstable. Turning over to turn over. And waking up to real uncertainties.”
The tenderness, uncertainty, and femininity that gives rise to a plethora of emotions found within Pinaree Sanpitak’s works often transports the audience to a realm of sensations and perception in all aspects including form, taste, scent, sound, to the audience’s own interactions. All in an environment that offers no leading opinions, instead leaving the audience to arrive at their own varied interpretations of the work.
Both the House Calls exhibition - held at 100 Tonson Foundation - and the Breast Stupa Cookery: the world turns upside down - held at Nova Contemporary - are evolved from the work The Black and the Red House, a site specific art installation, which was exhibited at the Setouchi Triennale, held on Honjima Island, Japan, in 2019. Pinaree exhibited the work at an old wooden house owned by the last carpenter from the Shiwaku Daiku school, best known for their shipwrights. The work was Pinaree’s way of acknowledging and paying homage to the significance of these lost Japanese craft techniques, which have been passed to time along with the masters that created them. For Pinaree, the appreciation for Japanese craftsmanship also extends to the handmade Mohachi paper that she often uses in her own art. This special paper was invented by Mr. Keiji Oki, a legendary papermaker whose techniques were lost when he passed away.
Part of the installation was eight small sculptures placed in the tatami room’s tokonoma - an alcove in a traditional Japanese house commonly used to place items for artistic appreciation, such as calligraphy scrolls and floral arrangements. She calls these sculpture “Phum Kami” (kami means paper), with the ‘Phum’ from Phan Phum referring to a top part of a traditional Thai pedestal tray with floral arrangements on top, used to present offerings as a show of respect and gratitude to the teacher or master in Thai culture. The top part of the sculpture was crafted by hand, using torn stacks of different types of mulberry paper that is pierced through the middle with a long needle to form a tapering mound resembling a breast, which also resembles works of Buddhist architecture known as stupas (a Buddhist monument). The artist refers to this as the ‘Breast Stupa’, a combination of the two seemingly opposing concepts of sexuality and religion, and is a recurring form in Pinaree’s works. The paper Breast Stupa will then be placed on wooden pedestals of varying sizes, with the pedestals simultaneously burdened and celebrated at the same time.
Furthermore, the courtyard area of The Black and the Red House also housed the wooden Breast Stupa Topiary sculpture, along with the Breast Stupa Cookery event, an ongoing collaborative art project that combines the distinct worlds of art and food together. The event featured a collaboration between a Thai and Japanese chef, the two of whom held cooking workshops for interested participants.
Breast Stupa, Vessels and the Journey Home
The various parts of the Black and the Red House are continued in the two exhibitions this year, with House Calls expanding the amount of Phum Kami from a handful of sculptures into a large-scale audience participatory art installation. The “Breast Stupa” was created from paper collected from various countries, from Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Laos, as well as those found locally at the Ton Pao district of Chiang Mai province, all displayed upon vessels, kitchenware, and other miscellaneous kitchen tools selected by the artist, as well as items taken from her personal collections, a mixture of the new and the old. Pinaree’s work has long revolved around the celebration of the female body as a vessel of perception and experience, exploring the vessel and the mound as a basic and primal form. She often compares ‘vessels’ as akin to the ‘body’, both literally and figuratively. The ‘vessel’ is therefore a receptacle for the soul (mind) and memories.
When taking into account the myriad shapes of the vessels, designed for their respective purposes, the history contained within the over 400 pieces of different vessels each reflecting the subtleties in eating culture from various cultures. From the sticky rice steamer, a bamboo sticky rice container from the Esan region, lacquerware from Lanna, to various ceramic plates and enamel bowls from Japan. Combined with the audiences’ own varied experiences, this leads to the birth of new stories that are unique to each individual.
The sculptures are placed on motion-responsive shelves specially designed and fabricated by Bangkok-based Studiomake. The shelves are able to subtly vibrate in reaction to viewers’ movements, animating the sculptures and resembling the experience of living in uncertainty even if you are at home by allowing each shelf level to change position, or even alter its own width. Throughout the exhibition period, the placement of each shelf and sculpture will rotate into different patterns, allowing the artist to add or take away sculptures while creating a different layout for the audience to make their way through. Every time the audience experiences the installation becomes a physical trial, as the fear of something falling down as they walk pass can easily manifest.
Coexisting in a World Upside Down
If House Calls is the living room, then Breast Stupa Cookery: the world turns upside down will most likely be the kitchen or dining room, where people spend time together through the medium of food. Since Pinaree first established the Breast Stupa Cookery in the year 2005, the project has been ongoing for the past 15 years. Using the ‘Breast Stupa’ as a mould to create breast-shaped cooking molds, ready for chefs professional and amateur alike to conjure any number of dishes. Breast Stupa Cookery: the world turns upside down bridges the social collective with gastronomy and art. The exhibition transformed Nova Contemporary into a café/eatery, challenging the present social norm. In the midst of today’s climate, where mass gatherings of people have become a liability, this exhibition shines a light on the depths of food both as a medium of art, as well as a connective thread for human relationships.
Collaboration lies at the core of Breast Stupa Cookery, through the exchange and sharing of ideas, culminating in unexpecting results each time this project occurs. Chefs, pâtissiers, confectioners, bartenders, as well as ceramic and glass artists who all flaunt their respective masteries, creating a shared experience with the audience and diners. From cookies arranged in matching sets that resemble Pinaree’s past works, black Breast Stupa-shaped popsicles in various shades and flavors, or a French-style desert in the shape of a breast; each raises the claim that the breast is not merely a female concern, but also extends to transsexual women and other non-binary sexual preferences, as well as the flavors that invoke the nostalgic memories of a mother’s cooking.
To create a shared experience with the audience or the diners at a time when social distancing measures are considered mandatory, where people are forced to socialize through a virtual platform, the choice to come together and share a meal - to take part in conversation surrounded by works of visual art - therefore becomes an especially daring and challenging proposition. Pinaree has created an atmosphere of revelry through the exhibitions of two large-scale art pieces consisting of paintings, the massive Breast Stupa Topiary sculpture made from reclaimed wood - prominently displayed in challenge of the audience, and a smaller version is placed on the floor. Both sculptures are lathered in ashes and beeswax, showing the traces of the circular saw that is a technique used by ancient Thai carpenters, as if the two sculptures are witnesses to our shared time within the space, while also paying homage to the masters of Thai craftsmanship. Furthermore, the act of eating takes place entirely on a Breast Stupa Cookery Table. Food both savory and sweet will be served in plates and bowls shaped like the Breast Stupa, created by ceramic artists from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sakon Nakhon. All of this combined creates an effect as if we have stepped into the imaginary world of the Breast Stupa Cookery, a parallel world of dreams and reality.
Both of Pinaree’s exhibitions tell of the experience humans the world over share with regards to the massive Covid-19 pandemic, where everyone is forced to remain in their homes while suspending any gatherings and recreational activities. Many individuals had the opportunity to go into quarantine with their families, while many unfortunate others did not. The House Calls exhibition shows the complicated dimensions that exist within a home: from a place of lodging for a family, a repository of mementos to the past, a sanctuary for the heart, to the many delicate and abstract states in between. The Breast Stupa Cookery: the world turns upside down exhibition establishes a space for communal social interaction. The act of gathering may be a stand against the “new normal” of current society, but it could also be a challenge to the very nature of man itself.
The desserts, pastries, and beverages found within the Breast Stupa Cookery Cafe have all been meticulously designed, inspired in both form and concept by the works of Pinaree Sanpitak. Through exchanging, sharing, interpreting, and mutual learning of new ideas, the results are beautiful works of creativity that taste just as good as they look.
From the hands off Tami Watanabe - straight from Japan - come these exquisite hand-made cookies, inspired by the artist's own understanding of art history. The result is a transformation of Pinaree's art into an edible item, opening the doors to a new kind of artistic experience.
Breast Stupa-shaped popsicles that come in many shapes and sizes, be it thin, fat, or anything in between, as seen in Pinaree's artwork. Each popsicle also comes in a different shade of black, from pitch dark to blinding white, resembling edible sculptures.
YORA, read backwards as 'A ROY' (Thai word for 'delicious'), offers excellent tasting ice cream/desserts that combine classic 'Thai' flavors into delicate sweets. Each and every dish has been designed and created especially for the Breast Stupa Cookery program.
Mad Sugar has conjured a French-style dessert worthy of a pâtisserie, moulded into a breast shape. Atop the desert is rainbow-colored decorations, resembling mammary glands. Even though the breast is considered a symbol of motherhood, and the rainbow a symbol of sexual diversity, Mad Sugar believes that anyone - no matter their gender - can be mothers.
In Tokyo Hot's interpretation of the Breast Stupa Cookery, they are reminded of the irreplaceable flavors of mothers' cooking. From their personal experiences being forced to eat "Tao-Huai-Nam-King" (soybean curd in ginger water), a bitter beverage with hints of spice. This time, they make their return with a reconstruction of their once-dreaded dessert by turning the ginger water into jelly, topped with cold soya milk. They call their new dish the 'Tao-King-Nam-Huai', a new expression of a venerated street food.
The 'Financier' is a scrumptious cake of French origin. With SOI S: AM's signature recipe, the dessert is created using a breast-shaped mold in the Breast Stupa Cookery way. The tip has been browned by repeated baking after applying butter, providing us with the pleasant aroma of burnt butter and caramel. The Financier also happens to be one of the artist's favorite desserts, one that she often makes with her son. Naturally, this means that making desserts is one of her most treasured family moments.
One Ounce For Onion
A special beverage designed on the concept of 'mother's milk' as one's first meal, along with a list of other beverages meant to be paired with each of the various desserts at the Breast Stupa Cookery Cafe.