Gender in Southeast Asian Art Histories II: Art, Design and Canon-Making?

Gender in Southeast Asian Art Histories II: Art, Design and Canon-Making? Chulalongkorn University, 19-20 April 2019

Convened by Yvonne Low, Roger Nelson, Clare Veal, and Juthamas Tangsantikul

Speakers included: May Adadol Ingawanij (University of Westminster); Clare Veal (LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore); Patrick Flores (University of the Philippines); Varsha Nair (Womanifesto); Nitaya Ueareeworakul (Womanifesto); Phaptawan Suwannakudt (Womanifesto); Shireen Seno (independent filmmaker); Juthamas Tangsantikul (Chulalongkorn University); Rachaporn Choochuey (Chulalongkorn University); Thida Plitpholkarnpim (Documentary Club Bangkok); Saran Yen Panya (designer).

Designed as a two-part, cross-institutional event, the second iteration of Gender in Southeast Asian Art Histories, with a theme of “Art, Design and Canon-Making?”, took place at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, in April 2019. Building upon conversations initiated in Sydney in 2017 surrounding the development of methodologies informed by gender in the context of Southeast Asian art and visual culture, this event, featured a wide range of activities including lectures, workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions and film screenings, all focused around the issues of labour and ‘canonisation’ and the ways in which these have been informed by understandings of gender and sexual difference.

A key focus of the event was the histories of Womanifesto, a significant but understudied feminist artistic residency and exhibition project, that has been held biennially in various locations in Thailand since 1995 and later on online platforms. As such, one of the highlights of the event at Chulalongkorn was an exhibition of archival materials related to Womanifesto, which was curated by two of its co-founders, Varsha Nair and Nitaya Ueareeworakul. The exhibition made publicly available, for the first time, materials including photographs, videos, artworks, documents, publications and other ephemera related to Womanifesto’s activities. The exhibition opening, which was presided over by Prof Pinraj Khanjanusthiti, the Dean of Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Architecture, was also attended by many of the original participants in this project. One important outcome of the exhibition was a digitisation project to further facilitate the accessibility of these materials, which is currently being undertaken by Asia Art Archive.

Womanifesto’s relevance to broader discussions of sexual difference, women’s labour and canonisation, was foregrounded in May Adadol Ingawanij’s keynote lecture, ‘Matriarchs of Medium’, which began the events on the morning of 19th April. Ingawanij’s theoretically rich presentation charted a wide territory, from literature, to photography and film, to examine the ways in which concepts of subject and ground might shape our enquiries into these materials.  As such, her talk challenged the audience to think beyond strategies of recovery and inclusion, to realise the radical potentials of shifts in scale and focus.

Following Ingawanij’s presentation, Clare Veal’s workshop continued the discussion of the concepts of subject and ground in order to examine how these might inform practical strategies for working with archives and visual materials. This was followed by an invigorating and inspiring conversation between Patrick D. Flores and three founding members of Womanifesto­: the artists Varsha Nair, Nitaya Ueareeworakul and Phaptawan Suwannakut.

In his introduction, Flores parsed a range of latitudes that situated Womanifesto in affinity with other feminist art collectives in the region. In the discussion that ensued, these themes became important touchstones for the Womanifesto organisers in their articulations of their own experiences.

Day two of the symposium featured a film screening of Nervous Translation (2017) that was followed by a discussion between the director, Shreen Seno, and Ingawanij. The Chulalongkorn event finished with a frank discussion about the role of gender in Thailand’s design industry led by Juthamas Tangsantikul and featuring Rachaporn Choochuey, Thida Plitpholkarnpim and Saran Yen Panya, which provides a rich starting point for cross-disciplinary comparative work in the future.


A brief overview of the symposium as reported by CommDe The International Program in Communication Design, Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University.

Download the PDF here.

Supported by Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; the Power Institute together with the School of Literature, Art and Media and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney.

Chulalongkorn University  power instituteSydney university