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How one of the Whitney Biennial protesting artists spends Sundays
Korakrit Arunanondchai prepares for his upcoming live show in a studio in New York, Oct. 27, 2019. Arunanondchai, one of the artists who withdrew their pieces from the Whitney Biennial in protest earlier this year, spends his Sundays around Chinatown, where he lives. Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times.

by Scott Enman



NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Whether dousing himself with paint, petting crocodiles or transforming 85-foot boats into works of art, Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai is constantly pushing boundaries.

This year, Arunanondchai was part of a group of artists who withdrew their pieces from the Whitney Biennial when it became known that the museum’s vice chair, Warren Kanders, was the owner of a company that distributes law-enforcement equipment, like tear gas canisters. (Kanders would later resign his position at the Whitney.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Arunanondchai, 32, will present what he described as his most ambitious project to date. “Together” will be a live performance featuring more than a dozen people, including the artist himself, at the Harlem Parish as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.

“It feels really heavy and really complicated,” he said. “Even though, in theory, it only happens for two nights, and at most 500 people will see it, it feels much bigger in scope and scale. It’s something you can experience and live, but you can’t hold onto it forever.”

Arunanondchai, whose work is also on view this month in Venice and Singapore, lives in Chinatown, a neighborhood that he said reminds him of Bangkok.

FAMILY FIRST I wake up around 10, answer emails in bed for 40 minutes and then make a really light breakfast. I really concentrate on my healthy beverage game. I try to juice my own oranges every morning. A lot of times, I’ll have to talk to someone in Thailand. If I wake up at 10 a.m., it’s 10 p.m. there. I’ll call my dad or mom for maybe an hour as I’m cleaning or getting ready to leave my house — getting family day done.

ANCIENT HISTORY I listen to an audiobook as I shower and water my plants. I’m not a great reader. For the past two months I’ve just been listening to different audiobooks about Gobekli Tepe. It’s a temple in southeast Turkey. I just visited it. It was built 12,000 years ago. Somehow it’s just nice to wake up, before I’m fully awake, and listen to pre-culture stuff.

CORTADO There’s this really nice coffee shop called Oliver Coffee. I’m totally addicted to coffee now. I drink a cortado with oat milk every morning. I could make a cortado if I had one of those big coffee machines, but it would take up my entire kitchen.

DIM SUM For the first part of the day, I don’t walk anywhere for more than five minutes. After I wake up I leave my house. It’s like a cog in the day scene. I do laundry, get coffee and eat dim sum with a friend. It all happens within my Chinatown. I go one block from my house to Dim Sum Go Go. I don’t really identify with the Western “let’s go to brunch,” you know, Americans: “Let’s eat a poached egg and avocado toast.”

COOKING WITH FRIENDS I’m pretty good friends with Danny Bowien, who is a chef at Mission Chinese Food. Right now we’re working on this collab. He’s inviting different friends to come and make a special menu with him. Mine’s in March. I want to concentrate the meal on two interests. They’re Thai based. One is fermenting raw seafood in fish sauce, lime and chili like crab roll or shrimp — things that have a gnarly colorful texture. I like things that feel a little eggy. Then I want to make a few different dishes with durian. It’s really extreme, either you love or hate this fruit.

LOCAL ART Sometimes I go and see three shows in the Chinatown/Lower East Side area. Maybe I’ll go meet someone at the Whitney. (I still believe in the Whitney as an institution. I want it to exist. It’s not like I want the Whitney to disappear; you shape the world through adjustments.) I stop by Essex Street gallery often. I always know someone showing at 47 Canal.

TAKE OUT AND TUNES I have a music producer named Aaron David Ross, who lives a block away from me. He has a studio in his house. He makes music for most of my videos and he’s doing sound for Performa too. I’ll go over around 7 or 8, we’ll order take out and then work on music until midnight.

I order take out a lot. I can’t cook complicated things because my apartment will just smell. I order Japanese or Thai food always. We work together on a project up until nighttime, and then maybe tune down by watching whatever is on TV, something like “Westworld,” “Succession” or “Euphoria.”

ZOMBIE STAGE I go home, brush my teeth, get in bed and look at my phone for like half an hour in zombie stage. Sometimes I’ll read random stuff; sometimes I’ll be scrolling through Instagram. If there’s already work coming in for Monday morning from Europe or Asia, I’ll sometimes answer those emails, but I won’t get on a laptop. Between 1 and 2, I’m turning off the lights. I need at least eight hours.

© 2019 The New York Times Company










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