July 2008 – Bangkok Love Ball
As I bob to the music, images from the ArtAids events of past few days pass through my mind. I see the Thai princess who opened the big exhibition at Chulalongkorn University. I lead her past the works and catch a hint of perfume, Chanel No. 5. I see the white powder on her face and the three small drops of sweat above her lip. One of the works is a chalk drawing, and visitors are invited to rub parts of it out. ‘Ah, wipe out AIDS, very good,’ says the princess with her husky voice, and she nods with satisfaction.
I see the children who took part in the workshop we held in a large shopping centre. One of the Thai artists had made a stamp, which is used to make prints that are given to the children to colour in. I watch as one mother picked up an ArtAids brochure. I see a large golden Buddha with an enormous red AIDS ribbon, the work of Leo Copers being exhibited at Silpakorn University. Until three minutes before the opening yesterday, Leo was still arranging and rearranging the ribbon.
There is also music at the opening of our exhibition at the Tadu Art Gallery, as well as dancing and delicious snacks (when Thai get together there’s always food). I see the buttons in the shape of eyes that Kamol Phaosavasdi made, one for positive and one for negative. And I see the thirteen framed forms, the work of the young artist Patiroop Chychookiat. He asked his fellow artists and the ArtAids team to take an HIV test. Twelve negative results are now hanging in the exhibition room, and one positive: mine.
I see the faces of the children with HIV who were photographed by Manit Sriwanichpoom. The Thai authorities wouldn’t allow us to show the photographs at Silpakorn University because the children were recognizable, and that could lead to social exclusion—even though the subtitle of the exhibition is ‘A contemporary art event to fight the stigma of HIV’. So we organized a separate exhibition in the photographer’s gallery called Life is Beautiful.
Slowly all these images begin to merge. The colours and the shapes become one with the other ideas in my mind, and then they fade. Not only do my thoughts seem to be dissolving, but I, too, am being swallowed up in the whole. My self is disappearing and there is no longer a border between me and the music, between me and the constantly changing images on the wall, between me and the others. I don’t know if it’s the high I’m feeling from the past few days, from the beers I’ve had, the heat, the pounding of the music, or the dancing bodies right next to me. But I feel terrific. Being one with the people around me—there’s no more perfect happiness imaginable, even if it only lasts as long as a number by Lady Gaga.