why not simply be curious?! Pratchaya Phintong and a follow-up on a heated debate

Pratchaya Phinthong chose to exhibit two dead tse tse flies, one presumably female and the other presumably a sterilized male. they lie on a marble slate on top of a white pedestal and are covered by a glass cube. well lighted, this ensemble goes under the title "sleeping sickness".

somehow Phinthong made it onto the invitees' list of the documenta and somehow he chose the tse tse flies for the occasion, all very well. to me it is an invitation to think about the tse tse fly, the desease it can spread, the social consequences this may have, mankind's efforts to rid itself from illness and pests and the various ways these efforts take. this is already quite a journey to take without even having considered formal aspects of the work. to be honest, i am not particularly interested which category of art this object belongs to because i would not see any added value in such a categorization. in my naivité, i consider this a quite successful piece of art simply because the presentation of two dead insects has the potential to trigger off a pretty substantial avalanche of thought and contemplation.

what then leaves me upset and, in the end, perplexed, is the fact that someone pretty much endowed with the capacities of thought and contemplation would purposely curtail the freedom and space of thoughts and associations by pressing the visual image into very narrow channels of interpretation. why, for the sweet love of gods, would one want to impregnate visitors with an ideology purported by a curatory team if the artist's object itself leaves a lot more space than that? yes, admittedly, Phinthong already makes a statement in a certain direction - means and ways of vector control can or cannot be imported - but i cannot see him comment on this choice.

i invite art professionals to demonstrate the same openmindedness, humility and curiosity towards issues (not immediately) art-related that non-art professionals are constantly requested to demonstrate regarding "art". Artist or not, we are in the end all trying to grapple with the same problems. "What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more." you may want to follow Susan Sontag's advice ("Against Interpretation", 1964) by following up on FAO, IAEA or WHO webpages re. the fight against tse tse flies and trypanosomiasis before going back to Phinthong's tse tse flies and indiscriminately roving and railing about capitalism and/or colonialism. be sure that in this context the regurgitation of political slogans is as silly as any comment i may make about the poor little things being victims of object art or concept art or whatever kind of art. ignorance does eventually show.

if there's any need for material on capitalism and colonialism outside any tunnel views, i am happy to supply reading lists. there are actually economists, historians and political scientists who try to think outside the box. artists do not have a monopoly of doing just that. we are in this together.

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