Saturday, 3 December 2011

Searching for Numbers and Maps

Friday was a huge day for gathering information.  The mission was to retrieve a map of Sam Rit village in order to make it easier for the artists to navigate during their stay. We were told that the best place would either be at one of the Politician's houses (there are several villages in Sam Rit - 15 in fact, and this was the Politician of Sam Rit 1, 2, 12, and 13 we were going to see).  If that was unsuccessful, then we were to try the medical clinic.
Eck and Sam Rit Politician Duang

Eck and I set off to the Politician Duang's house first, and he found a satellite map of the four villages closest to each other; Sam Rit 1, 2, 12 and 13.  The artist's residence and my family's compound are located in Sam Rit 2. The map was good to see the geographical proximity of the village, but we needed something more along the lines of a street view map.

Sam Rit Clinic
Head Nurse: Somnuk Tiyathaithada
Next stop was the clinic.  This is located directly opposite the school we visited earlier in the week.  We were warmly greeted by the lady at reception, and then led into the Head Nurse's office, which turned out to be much more fruitful than expected. Nurse Somnuk was able to give us a map of the village which displayed where each street, house, shop, temple and other landmark was located, and also gave us population numbers, and a history of Sam Rit (still yet to be translated).  It was amazing that this was the only place that knew this information.  We also found out that Sam Rit 2 has a population of 669 people (184 households).  This really helps to put things into perspective for me, as it illustrates in numbers, the size of this village.
Phimai Historical Park

Tourist Police in Phimai
Next we headed into the nearest town, Phimai, to pick up some brochures from the Tourist Police Office and Phimai Historical Park.  The maps we found were great and located some handy necessities, and we would be sure to add our own finishing touches too (like where the best massages are in town!).  The Phimai Historical Park is on the list for the artist's 3 day orientation.  With Khmer Architectural aesthetic, these ruins actually out-date those in Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  It attracts many local and international visitors into the area.

Today was also the day I had my wisdom tooth extraction scheduled.  It was at the local Phimai dentist, which now boasts two dental surgeons.  They speak enough English to let you know what's going on, and are fully equipped and efficient in what they do.  I had a small composite filling whilst waiting for the anaesthetic to kick in, then my impacted wisdom tooth, much more stubborn than anticipated, finally came out.  It was all done in 35 minutes,  then I was sent home with gauze, pain killers, antibiotics and a bill for AUS $54.  For that kind of price and service I try to avoid going to the dentist anywhere else!

Before my anaesthetic wore off, Eck and I travelled around Phimai to scout out what kind of art materials were available in the town.  We came across a great school supplies shop which stocked everything from art, craft, science, music and sporting equipment.  I'm sure the artists could get quite creative with the array of coloured paper, glass beakers and pipe cleaners in stock!

River located behind the family compound, already quite high,
 had flooded an extra 5 metres a few months earlier
That night we ventured to the village for dinner.  It was going to be the last night there, as Saturday night were are hosting a party before heading back to Bangkok on Sunday.  We all talked about how the floods had severely affected the area in the last two years.  In August last year, it was the worst flooding seen in years.  2000 Rice fields were destroyed, which meant that those farmers and their families have been struggling ever since. The same areas were then again flooded this year, and 78 rice crops were destroyed.  With Sam Rit village relying on rice for its major source of industry and income, these flood waters have truly affected the lives of the 184 families in the area.  This is something that I will be endeavouring to help out with upon my return to Australia.  It costs only AUD$20 to buy a bag of rice seeds and fertilizer which will grow an entire crop field. From this, an average of 500 bags of rice can be sown, and this can then be turned into $200 from selling at the market.  Keep posted for an exhibition of photos from my trip where you could literally help sow the seeds to recovery...

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bicycles, T-shirts and nasty bugs

What a whirlwind 24 hours!  This blog is a day late due to an unexpected virus that had bedridden me for the entire day yesterday, so let's recap...

Wednesday's mission saw us heading into Korat, the nearest city about 40 minutes from the village, so source a bicycle and some t-shirts for merchandising printing.  Korat would probably be as comparatively big to Brisbane, with all the major shopping malls, outlets, traffic, people, large streets and organised chaos.  It's good to know that their most prestigious shopping centre, innovatively called 'The Mall' is well overstocked with art supplies ranging from brushes, paints, paper, mediums, pastels, pencils and other high quality art materials.  The price probably slightly cheaper than that in Australia, but at least it would mean a lighter luggage load for the artists if they choose to purchase their materials here.

T-shirts found!
First stop is t-shirt shopping in the old city section of Korat.  We are trying to source good quality black t-shirts for printing our gallery's logo upon. These shirts will be worn by those involved in the program and will also be available to purchase at the gallery in 2012.  T-shirt printing is ridiculously cheaper in Thailand, so we are taking advantage of the opportunity.

After a few smaller scale shops, we hit the jackpot warehouse where the other shops most likely stocked their supplies from.  We found a bargain, and carried two oversized bags of black shirts to scout some much deserved lunch nearby.  Much to my delight they were selling meat on a stick and sour green mango.  The fact that the meat itself was chicken bums didn't faze me, as my hunger and the taste definitely outgrew the potential thoughts in my head.

Green mango to top of the greasiness is just what was needed too.

Sliced Green mango served with chilli sugar
Then it was on to bicycle hunting.  We were on the look out for a good quality commuter's bicycle, so that the resident artist could be properly equipped during their stay.  We figured that having a bicycle for transport would be beneficial for a few reasons:  to keep the artist local within the village; to encourage social interactions with the village residents; and overall it had much less risk than driving a car or a motorbike.  Definitely a more environmentally friendly alternative too.

We found the perfect bike in a shop tucked away in one of the back streets, boasting every kind of bike accessory you could imagine.  Basket, bag holder, bell, mudguards, good size and good price!

Coming back into Phimai, it was time to drop off the numerous t-shirts to the man who was actually screen printing onto them.  His shop, tucked behind a restaurant by daylight, was also alongside the street that set up as a market at night.  This market is where we sourced our dinner for the night, picking up some Som Tum (green papaya salad), Gai Yang (BBQ chicken), pork curry, beef jerky, and some other veggies to eat.
Thank goodness for eating my little heart out that night, before the next day which would see me not eat or leave the bedroom for a whole day!
Curry in a hurry!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Getting down to it

It's getting down to the nitty gritty now, as I start to truly document and research about Sam Rit village.

Firstly I will introduce Eck, our Project Liaison and Translator for the program.  Eck will be responsible for orientating each artist and then being on call whenever an artist requires assistance with any matter.  He is also helping me to get the project developed during my short stay at the moment.

We started the day off by checking out one of the tourist hot spots that the artists will see during their 3 day orientation.  The place is called Sai Ngam, and it's made of one single Banyan Tree which is so old, it has now grown into its own island.  It's a very sacred a beautiful place that both locals and tourist venture to see and have a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants flanking the site.

It was then down to business as Eck and I went to suss out the living quarters and studio for the resident artists, sorting out what needs to be done and what needs to be sourced.  I've got some great pictures of the local family residents, including the animals, and an insight into the livelihood of this working village from farming mushrooms, eggs, pigs and rice, which will be put into the residency package.  
We also took a trip to the local school in Sam Rit.  This school has grown over the years and now teaches students from primary to junior high level.  The English teacher was especially excited to learn that each artist would be paying a visit to the school in order to give a presentation about their life in Australia.  They are crying out for genuine English language exposure and are excited about the residency program starting next year.
Artist's residence in Sam Rit

We took a trip to all the local convenience stores and documented what kind of products are available.  There is pretty much everything you need in the village from toiletries, snacks, beer, phone cards and a photocopier. The temple or 'Wat' also welcomed our presence as we took photos inside the building and checked out the wall paintings adorning the walls.  I hope to meet the artist who painted these murals at the end of the week.

Chicken coop for egg farming
The day ended with a home cooked feast in the family compound, and some local beers to boot.  It truly is such an organic experience in the village - so relaxed and honest.  We are truly looking forward to sharing the experience with the artists that come over.

A feast of local produce

Monday, 28 November 2011

The adventure has begun!

After 8 hours flying, 10 hours driving (collectively), 2 aeroplane meals, 10kgs of luggage and a stop over in Bangkok, I have finally made it to my destination of Sam Rit, in order to get the residency project made. in Sam Rit, off to a start.  It has been quite a journey already, starting at Brisbane airport, just after checking my luggage in, then spilling an entire bottle of carbonated beverage all over my pants (there will be no advertising of names here), and having to spend a whopping $90 on new surf labels pants just to ensure I wasn't going to be drenched for the next 8 hours!

The flight was great, coupled with a few vodkas, on demand movies, and a sketchbook.  Landing in Bangkok had to be the best part though.  The airport is amazing - a futuristic architectural design jam-packed with tonnes of glass and steel, and travelators throughout the entire terminal.

After meeting up with Lindsay Sales (Project Liaison and dad), we set off the hotel to rest before heading up country to the village on Monday.  It was midnight on a Sunday in Bangkok by the time we reached the city, and it was in no way asleep.  Taxis were still everywhere, people working, playing and eating.

Monday morning I woke up bright and early (thanks to a 3 hour time difference) and headed off to find coffee.  I had remembered coffee in Thailand to be particularly sweet and creamy as they use condensed milk with it, so I thought my best bet would be a convenience store to find something stronger and unsweetened.  After choosing the type of coffee in a can that read 'strong', and still being highly disappointed with the level of sugar, I came across several coffee vendors with espresso machines and all.  Things have certainly changed since I lived here 11 years ago.

Bangkok is a great place to recalibrate your senses.  So many sights, sounds, smells and tastes.  Walking past all the street vendors on my morning adventure, I felt so enlivened and excited to be back here.

In the afternoon we headed North out of the city towards the village.  It was heart-breaking to witness how the floods are STILL affecting the people in the area.  So many people are displaced from their homes, jobs and cars.  I had no idea it was still this bad, even after a month.  I really want to do something to help out from Australia once I get back.

After delays from the flood and some massive billboards and overloaded vehicles, we made it to Nakhon Ratchasima Province to my family's house in Ban Muang, which is 20 minutes from Sam Rit Village.  Tomorrow we will venture around the area and I will document how amazing this part of the world really is.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Welcome to our new Blog

made. Director Alex Stalling
made. Director Elysha Gould

Hello World Wide Web and welcome to our Blog about the made. In Sam Rit artist residency, a project between ARI made. Creative Space Toowoomba (made.) and the remote Thai village Sam Rit.
Our very first blog is really a simple welcome and introduction about this space.   

In 2012 made. will be launching their international artist residency program for creatives to research, document and make work inspired by the working village of Sam Rit in North Eastern Thailand.  Our first mission is to create a 'face' for the project and so to achieve this made. Director Elysha Gould will be jet-setting off to the village next week to start the ball rolling.  During her week Elysha will be presenting the final project details to the Major and Village Leaders to formalise the partnership.  In addition to this Elysha will be writing the equivalent of a travel guide for the area to make the residency as fun and easy going as we can for the artists.  

Stay tuned for regular updates from Thailand and Toowoomba.