Questioning upon past and emerging socio-cultural phenomenon through the range of Phlow's textiles
This installation portrays parts of the changes of Phlow Karen textiles from past to present. Transformation of the Phlow textiles from conventional to inspirational daywear are displayed along side one another, to address how the textiles artisans have modified the materials and have hacked the weaving process as well as the possibilities of design intervention that can be curated for this inherited ethnic crafts to withstand the approaching challenges. Phlow Karen residents, who firstly migrated from Myanmar to settle along Rachburi border 300 years ago, have faced the gradual shift in living pattern during the past 50 years.
First of all, job employment, that has replaced Karen’s self-sufficiency living philosophy, has turned Karen textiles into commodified artefacts, for which many Karen have to save their earnings to spend, rather than weave for themselves. Secondly, widespread Industrialization concept from the 1950s has offered more convenient solution through the availability of factory- made weaving materials and semi-mechanical looms. These technical supports have assisted the weavers to find faster solutions to mass–produce the fabric for sale. Thirdly, since year 2000, Creative Economy with the rise of cultural tourism around Thailand has brought along the commercialization of cultural products, especially among the local crafts, to serve the needs of tourists. Karen textiles is designed and adapted into affordable products for modern usage. Lastly, the revival of ethnic culture started in 2010 has become the drive behind the the local needs for Karen dress. As a consequence, it has stimulated local authority’s attempt to support the weaver group in recovering their weaving skills in making Phlow textiles. However, younger generation does not seem to continue weaving practices. While formal education, schooling system, gives opportunity for Karen migrant’s descendants to be socially embraced, it has played a part in taking them away from weaving intrinsic knowledge which was, before, transferred from mothers to daughters.
The consequences that these challenges have brought reflect the tension between preserving original crafts heritage and modernizing them to survive the loss, having the debate about the value that technologically supported and hand-made production as the backdrop.
The installation aims to post the questions upon the phenomenon mentioned through the range of Phlow textiles:
Can preservation and modernization coexist to support the presence of each other?
Is it mismatched between laborious hand-made woven fabric and modern pattern cutting, the regular practice that are always applied when ones want to ‘modernize’ the traditional textiles?
Should Modern patterns cutting be rather paired with modern-technologically made fabric?
Would it be relevant to use new technology like digital printing to replicate the long-lost ancient piece?
Nanyang Academy of Arts, Singapore
Southeast Asian Arts Forum 2019
Tawichakorn Chotesupapongsa / Creative Director
Hinpa Pranpai / Photographer
Natthanon Traiyotee / Photographer assistant
Krittiphatkon Viangsong / Editer