My starting point is the central question: how do we actually know that we are in fact at the beginning of a global culture which is more than a mere continuation or extension of a former, most likely, European/Western culture? In reference to this question, if one looks at the popular culture in Thailand (namely the apparent ease in seeking, using and appropriating foreign patterns, techniques and technologies) this seems to ‘support’ the thesis that it is only a mere continuation/extension of Western culture. The Fine Arts Departments of Chiangmai University, Thailand Silpakorn University, Chulalongkorn University and Chiangmai University are pushing to establish media departments, which to date do not exist in Thailand. Only in the last five years have intensive contacts with foreign art institutions and artists been made — in terms of art exhibitions, artist residencies and exchange programs (which have increased steadily ever since). The internal discussion about these developments has been controversial. In dealing with foreign-cultured art within the framework of receptive processes concerning the entire culture, the central arguments are to do with a fear of loss of identity and tradition, which in turn raises questions about self-repre-sentation the readiness to develop old internal structures into something new, to gain equal access and actively participate in the global culture. These contrasting standpoints are reflected in the three major directions of Thai contemporary art — a) to resume traditional subjects and forms and to develop them further, but not in conjunction with foreign art; b) to be strongly influenced by European art developments and at the same time to be critical towards their own tradition; and c) to try to establish a synthesis between their own tradition/history and foreign elements, which is neither a mere continuation of the old traditions nor a mere imitation of art directions from outside. Besides describing some of these problems, the paper will attempt to examine what it might possibly mean to gain access to new media and to ask what practical problems (e.g. language, access to information, art market, social status of artists) might arise in this context, for the artists as well as the art institutions.
- Helen Michaelsen (Australia) Chianmai University, Thailand