Thai-Australian video artist Kawita Vatanajyankur creates works that offer a powerful examination of
the psychological, social and cultural ways of viewing and valuing the continuing challenges of women’s everyday labour. In her staged performances, Vatanajyankur undertakes physical experiments that playfully, often painfully, test her body’s limits - a challenge that is both unavoidably compelling and uncomfortable to watch. The alluring, lu minous colours in Vatanajyankur’s work are distinctive of the artist's aesthetic and tap into a globalized and digitally networked visual language of consumption and instant gratification.
The Squeezers, HD Video Still, 2.36 mins, Edition of 3+1 AP
The Squeezers is a part of Vatanajyankur's 2015 video series 'Work'. In the four videos comprising Work (2015), Vatanajyankur presents an uncanny restaging of a local, fresh fruit market. Engaging the tools and tasks common to its workers, including weighing bananas, juicing oranges and precariously balancing watermelons in plastic crates, Vatanajyankur undertakes physical experiments that playfully, and often painfully, test her body's limits. In Carrying Pole (2015), for instance, bananas are thrown into woven baskets that hang off her body, which is suspended from string like a set of scales. But as the fruits pile up, and in turn weigh her down, this scale works to gauge the artist's physical and mental strength; a challenge that is both unavoidably compelling, and uncomfortable to watch, in—excuse the pun—equal measures.Vatanajyankur’s exploration of everyday and domestic work is particularly telling of her Thai homeland. A place where, for many, daily chores aren’t always assisted by electronic contraptions or white goods but are time-consuming, physically exhausting, and often the task of women. The videos’ happy, day-glow colours, dark humour and undercurrents of violence, however, bring a universalityand contemporary currency to the historical trajectory of feminist art. It is telling, for instance, that she
describes her performances as“meditation postures”, when such gruelling tests of resilience and fear
are quite the opposite of what we might think of now as zen. But, for Vatanajyankur, extreme physical
endurance offers a way to free herself from her mind: a mechanism to lose her sense of being. This deliberate objectification, she says, turns her body into sculpture.