Perhaps there is more than what meets the mind?
Eloise Sweetman, 2013

Arin Rungjang’s investigation of the public and private challenges us, as he illuminates and complicates what it means to live in a borderless society. But what does it really mean, for you, the audience member? When you stand in West and survey Arin’s orchestration of objects, texts, people, and films, what do you mean? This is where you might stop in the text, and think this must be a mistake, the author must not signify mean, but see.

But that is just the point—when we see, we are meaning. We jump ahead and attach to the works our own interpretation. Your translation of meaning is like a well-concealed weapon. It is a normal action—to see by meaning—we introduce our own context to understand what we see, or what we don't see. If the works do not allow for a meaning attachment, we adjust the boundary lines. It is our personality, that realigns the disjointed internal versus the external, or vice versa. In psychology, this is the “locus of control,” as either; internal, you believe that you can control your life, or external, you believe that your decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors, which you cannot influence. Yet perhaps there is more than what meets the mind?


From your apartment, you can hear many things, the car wash and the endless lines of taxis readying to be scrubbed, the scream of a motor bike in the middle of the night, the silence that comes after it to what seems like the calm before the inevitable crash (that surprisingly never comes), the sound of Celine Dion and the keyboard accompaniment by the Dutch expat that lives next door, Dutch radio, Australian radio, 1960s Thai psychedelia discovered online.

Once you have orientated yourself to the sounds of your immediate surroundings, and if the warm breeze is just right, you can hear the chants and the leaders addressing the demonstrators.

What is more, you can hear Mor Lam.

หมอลำ, ລຳ, mo lam, maw lam, maw lum, moh lam, mhor lam.

Mor Lam began as a cultural activity in the Thai North on the borders of Thailand and Laos. In its natural state, it ties together themes of animism, Buddhism, and morality, conjuring visions of the struggle of agrarian life, love lost, love gained with a waggish leaning.

Migration is an important aspect of Mor Lam; its origin line is in the nomadism of Tai tribes that moved through China and Northern Vietnam. Mor lam has been carried a long way from the Thai/Laos border, finding its way through Thailand in the air, collective memories, and hearts of migrant workers. Nowadays, Mor Lam is a place, rather than just a form of meaning together. It seems like it was created for Karaoke, its tempo and tone at the pace of reading of a text. Migrant workers new to city can find their countrymen in the Karaoke bars; it is a home that is faraway, yet so close.

In its form and content, rivalry is typical of Mor Lam glawn. In nightlong events, men and women duel to outwit and outlast each other, an improvised courting ritual of mocking and teasing, but over time they begin to simulate falling in love. What we know of Mor Lam now is the cross-pollination of nineteenth century land rights and border rivalry of two nations. Used in propaganda during the Laos Civil War (1953-1975), Communist Laotians and the Pro-American Thais infiltrated cultural and social forms to command political support, to galvanise regional pride, and exploit agrarian values.


Moving through the crowd, you are nervous, there is more that two hundred and fifty thousand people here. This is the locus of the destruction of 2010, today you know that the people here are not preparing for another violent protest, but rather to remember the ninety-one people killed.

You have moved up on to a high rise walk way of the sky train, and have a three hundred and sixty degree view of the crowd, a photographer asks you if he can take photos, you say probably not. From your location, you have a good view of the stage; Mor Lam is performed inter-spliced with the speeches from political party leaders.

Walking back down to the crowded street, you can see the images of dead bodies, something that shocks you. What you know of violence is nothing like this. Crumpled bodies and so much blood. What is the purpose of this blatant display of death?

Some one says to you that you probably shouldn't be here; this is not for tourists. You say you didn't come here to have a good time; you came here to learn about your new home. You can see to your right, a politician moving through the throng of people surrounded by bodyguards. People are trying to tell the politician something, but they cannot get close enough. Faraway, so close. Suddenly, the politics of colour becomes very real; you are not sure why you chose to wear a yellow dress today.

Tulip, rose, cedar, green, velvet, orange, lotus, pink, blue, purple, jasmine, yellow, carnation, red.

The parallel lines that divide ideology, still affects the way that we interact with the world today, however the positions that we take seem to be not loud enough. There is an irony in this; if we look at the Cold War the positions of ideology were loud and destructive. Still, today with the democratization of the Internet and the democratization of weaponry, it is difficult to be heard without being assaulted. So we stay quiet, likes lines on a page waiting to be read.

Once upon time, we relied on the printed media to learn about war and unrest, and then later with the commercialisation of television, it ate with you at dinner. Documentation of the colour revolution is everywhere; the rise of social media platforms, smartphones, and that dark corner of the Internet, displaying horrific body counts and body parts, mixed in with hard-core porn. You can find the unedited raw footage of death, destruction, and chants.

This documentation has infiltrated our very existence and the cultural significance is prominent. In our borderless society, never before was the execution of civilians so readily available that you can slow down the moment when a person dies. Conversely, if you read the comments on YouTube videos, the graphicness becomes suspect when there are calls of propaganda. When did reality become so blurred with fiction?


The presentation of the Asian war report in Faraway So Close! against Mor Lam highlights the extremes between verifiable information and story telling, yet it begins to blur reality with fiction. The images selected by the participants are mechanisms of beauty versus the grotesque, love versus hatred, and simulation versus authenticity. The participants are isolating their locus of control. The boundary and parallel lines are asking you a question, what is your belief? What is the reason for such violent action; is it caused by internal or external control? If a person is so viciously beaten, do we question it? Do you want to know why? They say that knowledge is power, particularly now that we are actors and stakeholders in the thought economy, yet by understanding the why; do we begin to justify such action?

Oppenhemier quoted from The Bhagavad Gita after the first successful detonation of the atomic bomb, “I am death, destroyer of worlds”. To be able to understand complete destruction, you can operate it. In many ancient beliefs tektites are the talisman of our own attainment of souls , perhaps that by understanding the actions of others we take a piece of them with us. This is particularly interesting if we think about the might behind the production of tektites, it is said that the events that produce them are five thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The black stone of the Ka'aba is said to be a tektite, becoming darker and darker from the sins of the people. In the most central part of Western Australia, you can find Mount Magnet, which always maintain true north, the medicine men of the aboriginal clan transport tektites—Maban or magic—in their beards for its healing power and telepathic contact. Perhaps, the transferral of burden by understanding our neighbour’s actions is the healing that we are looking for? Do we release ourselves from the burden of not knowing in exchange for the burden of knowing?


The scenes of love and lust captured and edited down have become trunks without limbs. Arin presents the seductive and illusionary images of no longer contextualised bodies of work. The scenes reflect contemporary Mor Lam that has been criticised for its overt sexuality and Westernisation. The morality of the cultural form has been lost to its history. Like the scenes, the subtitles of post-soviet films are now only a simulation of the wider context, it is mistranslation of interpretation, its lost in translation. Yet, in contrast it is speaks of a freedom. To explore the boundaries demarcated by overarching superstructures of morality and politics, it illuminates the private fantasy. Similar to the interpretation of language and law, the subtitles and scenes rely upon your belief, your position, and ideology.

(And you’re the image of yourself today)

Like Arin, the participants, the artworks, and West, you—the audience—are a stakeholder; your stake in the work is the vehicle for personal and social identity. The strength of your belief is what you bring with you to this exhibition, and thus affects how you read, mean, or see.

Yet perhaps there is more than what meets the mind?
In our brains we have neurons, excitable cells that transmit electrical and chemical signals communicating via synapses. As we walk through West, and whilst you read this text these excitable cells are at work enabling us to feel light, hear sound, to flicker our eyelids. All the time our bodies and brains are moving us forward. In the network we see as Faraway So Close! each room is an area of our body, its moving and pulsing, projecting sound and image, but invisible to the eye is the excitable energy of the rooms and the artworks speaking to each other. When you look around the space, you begin to realize that the objects, documents, and people are in fact the audience to each other. Their synapses, found in the copper, the conductors of energy.

And here is where you find yourself, far away so close.