Preservation & Provocation
Chiang Mai Social Installation Intermedia Project, January 99
Preliminary concept - open for criticism and discussions
Supported by the Chiang Mai University, Faculty of Fine Arts - a project in a hilltribe village of an indigenous people called Dadangyan in North Thailand with artists and ethnologists from different countries and different cultures. The Dadangyan are war refugees who came to settle in this region around ten to twelve years ago from the Burmese region now called Myanmar. They are relatively poor and backward compared to the other hilltribes in northern Thailand, like the Arkai or the Mons. This village does not have electricity in any form (no generators), no kerosene lamps, no running water except from a nearby stream. They grow scarcely enough food for their own consumption. Their occasional income from tourists comes from room rental and selling handwoven shoulder bags to trekkers. All cooking is done on open wood fire. Special consideration must be given to the preservation of their culture when initiating this project. The foreigners they come into contact with are mainly tourists trekking with guides through their village and staying for a night, doing their own cooking, communicating through the guide. The state authorities installed the long neck Karens as a kind of human zoo for tourist attraction, but the Dadangyans are spared this fate because of their lack of physical "abnormalities". Only recently is an asphalt road being connected to the village and soon electricity will be available.
The project aims at intense discussion with NGOs working in these regions to find out the sensitive area of their culture, their requirements in their daily struggle to live in this region. Local adviser will be the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development in Thailand - Dr Chaiyan (director). This project will be a cooperation between artists and ethnologists from various countries. Questions to the project will be: What will be the changes to the lifestyle of this people in the next decade? Will there be more hilltribe women being forced into prostitution? Will there be positive influence through actions from our project?