Tied to thin bamboo fishing rods, wooden dolls are hungging each other in different positions, some upside down, others crouched and almost sitting in the air, simulating positions with clear sexual references. The Thai artist Adisak Phupa takes up the centenary tradition of the Hun Nakhon Leo (the creation of wooden and paper puppets that are animated following complex choreographies and dances by three puppeteers) and brings it back to our days. The transposition in a contemporary key of these elements of Thai culture characterizes the artist’s research which focuses in particular on the LGBT community: the history of one’s people becomes the basin to draw upon in order to update delicate and extremely contemporary themes. The playful and interactive aspect that characterizes these puppets allows Phupa to be able to address its message to a wide audience and also to be able to deal with social issues with an ironic but carefull gaze. The funny movements, the cartoonish expressions and the garments of the sculptures turn out to be a playful photograph of a tradition which is updating towards larger point of view on social issues.

The puppets, made by the artist by carving wood, following the traditional techniques of the Hunk Nakhon Leo, are then painted not following the classical style, which would include sumptuous gold robes and baroque decorations, but with a virtuous leap into the present. The puppets seem to be on top of the latest trends: the wooden bodies are in fact decorated with Adidas jumpsuits, floral crop tops, tight jeans and leather boots. Thus balancing the cultural heritage of tradition with a critical eye on the present, Phupa creates an intriguing installation capable of attracting the attention of a large audience.

The puppets of Ling Dao (2018) are in fact designed to be activated by visitors on the occasion of the Rocket Festival, a Thai celebration in which mythology and divinities are celebrated with the beginning of the rains through a parade, including parades of floats, dancers and fireworks. Playing with local folklore Adisak Phupa proposes a new way of interacting with one’s own story: bringing people to personally activate the puppets and playing with their moves, in some ways even provocative, introduces a subtle and ironic reflection on their own sexuality. The puppet tradition that has characterized Thai culture for hundreds of years finds, with Ling Dao, a contemporary turning point: the artist was able to preserve the importance and value of a creative and celebratory expression, inserting it into the scene contemporary art.


Adisak Phupa
Ling Dao, 2018
Softwood, 10x45x200cm
© ANPIS FOTO, courtesy MoCA Taipei