[ISEA2011] Paper: Rattapol Chaiyarat – Elephant: The Construction of Contemporary Representation Images


My work in general explores the relationship between human culture and the elephant. The images present the experience of the animals in nature through simulations. In the enclosure, the surface of information is cleverly constructed; it contains fabricated material that symbolizes nature. It also contains the actual animals that represent their own species in the wild. The work demonstrates the reality of how we view elephants and engages with the different representations informed by history, tradition and culture.

This research is aimed at creating a body of work that communicates, in digital and video imagery, key issues around the representation of elephants. To develop this work I will investigate the changing role of the elephant in Thai culture both in historic and contemporary terms and explore the impact of imported ideas on the process of change. A significant corollary interest in this research is the problem of representation and simulation in contemporary life and the impact it has on perception. My art work is a fabricated simulation created from material images. The animal images are transformed into illusions and explore how humans experience nature through simulation. In this way I engage with different kinds of representation for their specific forms and effects.

Sometimes experiencing nature has nothing to do with the real or unreal. The model of tropical rainforests in a controlled environment such as in some botanical gardens, may even look healthier than the real one in South America or Asia. In many regions tropical rainforests are threatened by uncontrollable factors such as over logging, mining, and the expansion of human settlement, as well as global warming, so the experience of the model is a fiction of the ideal, and does not match the reality of the world.

The images express social commentary on the changing role of domesticated elephants in Thailand. The images also demonstrate the animals on display in contemporary society. We love to look at them and appreciate the greatest living figures. We manipulate them in a way that provides us animals of almost absolute integrity. We project images of fabricated environment onto the animals in the way that we want to see. We place them in our society and celebrate our triumph over nature. Elephants still continue their journey through the coexistence of cooperation and confrontation between human culture and the animals. This journey probably will never end and we may have to walk with them every step of the way.


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  • Dr. Rattapol Chaiyarat is a lecturer at the department of Communication Arts, Faculty of Management and Information Sciences, Naresuan University, Thailand. He has a PhD in Multimedia Design from Monash University, Australia,  MFA in Photography, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, USA, MA in Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.  He is interested the construction of contemporary images that represent relationship between human culture and the elephant. The images present the experience of the animals in nature through signs and representation.

Full text (PDF) p. 398-401