An atmosphere of calm is evoked as one experiences the ebb and flow of everyday life in within the capital of Bangkok: children playing, monks at temples which date back to the early Rattanakosin and late Ayutthaya periods, and the daily activity of people living alongside the Chao Phraya River. This is an act of intermission, a period of stillness before change and movement within the country become more pronounced.
Part C: East Meets West
Although Westerners, ranging from Christian missionaries to school teachers, had been present in Siam prior to the reign of King Chulalongkorn, it was during this Kingâs reign that one sees an increase in the integration of Westerners into the daily life and culture. King Chulalongkorn introduced Europeans with a plethora of skills and abilities, such as architects and artists from Italy, bringing them into the country to work in conjunction with Siamese people. This âeast meets westâ continued, reaching its zenith during the reigns of King Chulalongkorn and his sons, King Vajiravudh and King Prajadhipok.
We move to and fro, exploring the daily lives of Westerners in Siam, and how they worked and interacted with Siamese people in the early 20th century. There is movement, as Siam becomes a blend of Eastern and Western cultures.
Part D: Moving Forward
The air is suffused with excitement as Siam quickly moves forward. And we weave in and out of Bangkok as the railway system begins to expand outwards.
Siam had experienced an expansion of the railway system which began during King Chulalongkornâs reign, culminating in a unified and vast network during the reign of King Vajiravudh. The construction of the railway reflects Western influence in two ways, both physical and ideological. The most evident influence is the use of Western materials and technology for the railway itself. However, the more subtle influence is that the railway enabled the realization of the Western idea of a ânation-stateâ pursued by Asian rulers of the period by connecting the periphery to the center. Governance can be centralized and the project of unifying the culture and administration of the country can begin. Siam had thereby become more connected and thus unified, leading to growth in mass tourism and large scale development which expanded beyond the capital.
And yet, amidst all of the modernization and movement, we see the Siamese people go through the everyday motions of life: sorting through documents at work and going to the cinema in order to enjoy the steady influx of western movies.
Introduction of Glass Plates Exhibition
This exhibition focuses on change, and on Siam as it gradually moves towards a unique blend of âEast meets West.â The intention is to create a historic journey which takes place in the present within the Bangkok Arts & Cultural Center, a journey which showcases the defining experiences and aspects of life in late 19th century and early 20th century Siam.
The audience moves in parallel with King Chulalongkorn as he travels throughout Siam with his family, an experience that is both calm and intimate. The Kingâs travels end in disruption, of which serves to be reflective of change in Siam. Change is neither immediate nor abrupt, however, as the audience unhurriedly experiences a range of emotions: a sense of stillness from the everyday, a sense of curiosity and fun that comes with the presence of new cultures and perspectives in unexpected places, and an excitement that arises out movement and change. In the end, we journey with Siam from the reigns of King Rama V to King Rama VII as the country moves forward to become what it is today.
In July 2018, an exhibition was organized by the National Archives of Thailand and Thai Beverage PLC at the National Gallery (Bangkok) to celebrate the registration of national glass plate negatives as UNESCOâs Memory of the World. Every year thereafter, The National Archives plans to open boxes of glass plate negatives in consecutive order, thereby selecting 1000 photos of which will be further curated for the public. This exhibition is a curation of glass plate photos selected by the National Archives for this year, and is a collaboration between The Fine Arts Department, Thai Beverage PLC, and The Photographic Art Foundation.
Hey Nico! I hope that youâre safe and well during these strange times. I wanted to consult you about something.
Two years ago, you and I met at the Glass Plates Exhibition at the National Gallery in 2018. That exhibition was organized in celebration of the registration of glass plate photography and UNESCOâs Memory of the World. Every year thereafter, The National Archives had planned to open boxes of glass plate negatives in consecutive order, thereby selecting 1000 photos of which will be further curated for the public. I was asked by the Fine Arts Department and Thai Beverage to help develop an exhibition which would be a curation of glass plate photos selected by the National Archives for this year. Yet again, this exhibition is a collaboration between The Fine Arts Department, Thai Beverage PLC, and The Photographic Art Foundation.
At current, iâm developing an online version of this Glass Plates Exhibition on the Google Arts and Culture platform. And I wanted to ask if it would be possible to interview and film you showing us how glass plate photography works and is done. Like a mini online workshop. And we can possibly discuss on video about glass plate photography in the modern day. It might be possible that the video would not only be on the Google Platform but also on a communications outlet such as The Cloud. What are your thoughts on this?
Part A: Travels of King Chulalongkorn
Beginning from the period in King Mongkut reigned, we start to see a shift not only within the lives of Siamese people but also within the lives of Siamese monarchs and their families. Interest in and interaction with Western customs and beliefs contributed towards a personalization of Kingship in Siam. Kings and their families began traveling for the purpose of relaxation and wellness, and palaces were constructed outside the capital of Bangkok, such as Khao Wang (Phra Nakhon Khiri) in Phetchaburi.
During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, this shift became more evident as the King traveled outside of Bangkok with his family, often traveling âincognitoâ in order to be closer to and to be amongst the people. The mood was light and whimsical, and most importantly: personal and warm.
We are taking a journey rooted in the present, traveling in parallel with King Chulalongkorn as he and his family enjoy the sun and salty air of Si Chung Island, and as they travel to Kamphaeng Phet wherein they explore historic sites and perform theatrical productions amongst one another. Towards the end of this journey, there is a shift in mood to one of melancholy. King Chulalongkorn suffers the loss of many of his children including H.R.H. Prince Urubhongse Rajasombhoj and H.R.H Princess Srivilailaksana, Princess of Suphan. This is reflective of change and movement, and is thus a sign of disruption.