Chao Phra­ya River Raft 2004 /2008

Per­for­mance-art plat­form

The Menam Chao Phra­ya River Raft


Water has a spe­ci­al mea­ning for Thai­land and for the peo­ple who are li­ving in the area of South East Asia. There is not only the tra­di­ti­on of wet rice agri­cul­ture and fis­hing. The ri­vers have been im­port­ant for de­ve­lo­ping trade and trans­por­ta­ti­on bet­ween the ci­ties.

The Menam Chao Phra­ya is the river of the Kings and the Mo­ther of all wa­ters in Thai­land. The peo­ple along the Chao Phra­ya river Basin de­ve­lo­ped their own stra­te­gies to sur­vi­ve floods and dry pe­ri­ods. They live in a spe­ci­al area and many are still de­pen­ded on the river. But even if it is so im­port­ant for agri­cul­ture and the sup­port of drin­king water it has like all big ri­vers in the world to carry all the pol­lu­ti­on of ci­vi­li­sa­ti­on and in­dus­tri­al pro­duc­ti­on. So it is also an ex­am­ple for near all kinds of eco­lo­gi­cal mi­sta­kes and cri­mes against the en­vi­ron­ment of mo­dern times.

This pro­ject is a ho­ma­ge to the ele­ments of na­ture, but equal a de­di­ca­ti­on to sim­ple life and the poor peo­ple of Thai­land.
The idea is, to cre­a­te a fle­xi­ble per­ma­nent plat­form for ac­ti­vi­ties for the peo­ple along the river areas. It should be a swim­ming ob­ject/ plat­form which is able to be pul­led, or drive itself, ups­tream the Chao Phra­ya River as long as it is na­vi­gab­le.


The pro­ject works with the in­ten­ti­on of a la­bo­ra­to­ry in the sense of a wor­king space / plat­form for ex­pe­ri­ments of all kinds of cul­tu­ral, eco­lo­gi­cal and so­ci­al ac­ti­vi­ties. This in­clu­des scien­ti­fic work, eco­lo­gi­cal re­sea­rch, art events / ex­hi­bi­ti­ons, per­for­mance, film etc. up to so­ci­al pro­jects like EM­POW­ER, in­for­ma­ti­on events about aids etc. In the end, the pro­ject might be a pool for open min­ded, cri­ti­cal vi­si­ons and pro­jects in­clu­ding per­for­man­ces and en­ter­tain­ment.
The pro­gram should be de­ve­lo­ped by a chan­ging team of local and in­ter­na­ti­o­nal guest cu­ra­tors, in co­ope­ra­ti­on with the local peo­ple of the rural areas or the in­ha­bi­tants of the ci­ties along the river. It should give also young peo­ple the op­por­tu­ni­ty and the chan­ce to par­ti­ci­pa­te, cre­a­te their own vi­si­ons, and join in­ter­na­ti­o­nal and glo­bal struc­tu­res and con­tacts beyond the In­ter­net.

In sum­ma­ry the Chao Phra­ya River Raft will be an Art-Pro­ject. The big frame of art gives the most open pos­si­bi­li­ties and al­lows all kind of ac­ti­vi­ties. This might be tra­di­ti­o­nal art forms of pain­ting, sha­dow pup­pets etc. up to fu­ture labs for vi­si­ons. They all might be ar­ti­cu­la­ted on this plat­form.

The pro­ject itself should be de­ve­lo­ped in se­ver­al steps.
set up an or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on team
de­ve­lop and mo­dify the con­cept
set up a time frame
sea­r­ching for struc­tu­res who are in­te­res­ted in co­ope­ra­ti­on or /and spon­so­ring
clea­ring of­fi­ci­al per­mits, pa­pers etc.
press / media work
buil­ding the ob­ject
plan­ning and mo­dify the first events

Who is in­vol­ved?

First of all the pro­ject is a ‘plat­for­m’ for the Thai so­ci­e­ty. Scien­tist, ar­tists, phi­lo­so­phers, so­ci­al wor­kers and other kinds of crea­ti­ve re­sources should be in­vol­ved and work in­ter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry to­gether. Fur­ther the ex­ten­si­on of an in­ter­na­ti­o­nal ex­change and joint ven­tu­res is part of the con­cept.
In the be­gin­ning, it might make sense to in­vol­ve ar­tists and others who have an in­ter­na­ti­o­nal re­pu­ta­ti­on. They may in­vi­te ar­tists and other in­sti­tu­ti­ons from all over the world.

An in­de­pen­dent cu­ra­tor team or any other kind of struc­ture might or­ga­ni­ze the ac­ti­vi­ties and pro­grams.

The pro­ject should be sup­por­ted by

• The know­led­ge and the in­flu­ence of Thai Uni­ver­si­ties and So­ci­al In­sti­tu­ti­ons like: Sil­pa­korn Uni­ver­si­ty, Chula­long­korn Uni­ver­si­ty, (fa­cul­ties of sci­ence and tech­no­lo­gy) Fa­cul­ty of Fine Arts) KMITL (Re­sea­rch) Con­cre­te House and others..

• In­ter­na­ti­o­nal Cul­ture In­sti­tu­tes and foun­da­ti­ons like: The Bri­tish Coun­cil, Goe­the In­sti­tu­te, Al­lian­ce Fran­cai­se, the Hein­rich Böll Foun­da­ti­on, Aus­tri­an Em­bas­sy, In­ter­cul­tu­ral in­sti­tu­te of Japan etc. All coun­tries who have an in­te­rest in ex­change among Thai and their own eco­no­my and cul­ture like China, Ca­na­da, Aus­tra­lia or the USA should be in­vi­ted to join and sup­port the pro­ject. This might be lo­gi­stic, fi­nan­ci­al, or po­li­ti­cal re­sources.

• Thai­land En­vi­ron­ment In­sti­tu­te / De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture of Thai­land

• The Un­es­co / World water as­sess­ment pro­gram­me
How does it work?

There should be a struc­ture who has to dis­cuss and to con­ti­nue the de­ve­lo­ping of the con­cept. Also it has to or­ga­ni­ze the first fi­nan­ci­al sup­port.
It makes sense to have a team of peo­ple who are or­ga­ni­zing the con­tacts, per­mis­si­ons, staff, hard­ware, ma­te­ri­a­ls etc. and a se­cond team who are de­ve­lo­ping and cu­ra­ting the pro­gram.

It is im­port­ant to find a pa­tro­na­ge for the pro­ject. There are cer­tain pos­si­bi­li­ties to keep the in­ter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry and glo­bal con­cept. One would be, if the UN is able to adapt the con­cept, but it should be also ve­ri­fied if other in­sti­tu­ti­ons and or­ga­ni­sa­ti­ons are able and wil­ling to share. Fur­ther it should be proofed if there is a way to get the in­te­rest of the Royal Fa­mi­ly of Thai­land.

King Bhu­mi­bol is fa­mous for his so­ci­al and en­vi­ron­men­tal en­ga­ge­ment. In case that the royal fa­mi­ly takes the pa­tro­na­ge of the la­bo­ra­to­ry, the ques­ti­on has to be con­si­de­red, if the free­dom of the con­cept does not cre­a­te any con­flict with the royal tra­di­ti­ons and fee­lings.

Time fra­mes

The pro­ject will be li­mi­ted in time to give all par­ti­ci­pants the chan­ce, to over­view the pla­ned en­ga­ge­ment for the pro­ject. The plan is to move the river ups­tream and come back to the sea. This might last one year. If the con­cept is wor­king well, and there is still in­te­rest, money and peo­ple who like to con­ti­nue the pro­ject, this should be pos­si­ble.
An­o­ther op­ti­on might be if the Un­es­co or others would be wil­ling to sup­port a long las­ting re­sea­rch.

The hard­ware

Pro­ba­b­ly the most dif­fi­cult part to put into prac­ti­se might be to get per­mis­si­on for the pro­ject from the mi­li­ta­ry go­ver­n­ment. Parts of the river area – espe­ci­al­ly in BKK – stay under the in­te­rest of the mi­li­ta­ri­es and the royal fa­mi­ly.

The ob­ject itself might be an old cargo ship or three long-tail-boats as­sem­b­led to­gether. But it could be also pon­to­ons fixed to­gether to a plat­form or any other con­struc­ti­on. (I did in Aus­tria) The main part of the Per­for­mance Space plat­form will be a wide-spread ex­hi­bi­ti­on and per­for­ming space. The plat­form needs a roof /shel­ter and some litt­le rooms for fa­ci­li­ties (see sket­ches). Fur­ther for one or two per­sons who or­ga­ni­ze the pro­grams and take care of the space should be the pos­si­bi­li­ty to live on the plat­form. Also there should be –at least- two gue­strooms for ar­tists and others. This will be de­pen­ded on the fi­nan­ci­al re­sources, per­mis­si­ons and other things. Du­ring the stay in rural areas all ma­te­ri­a­ls, food etc. should be bought as far as pos­si­ble at the local far­mers, shops etc.

The staff

Be­si­de the cu­ra­tor team or the art di­rec­tor the la­bo­ra­to­ry will need a litt­le team of peo­ple who run the pro­gram, take care of the vi­si­tors, main­tain the con­tacts and feel re­spon­si­ble for the Space. This might be a kind of long time vol­un­teer job, or a stu­dent group under the pa­tro­na­ge of a uni­ver­si­ty, which should be paid good enough, that there is no need for a fur­ther job du­ring this time. Fur­ther it will be a per­son nee­ded who is al­lo­wed and able to move and ship the la­bo­ra­to­ry on the river, from one town to the next vil­lage and next town etc...
Per­haps this has not to be a per­ma­nent job (if the ob­ject is an­cho­red for lon­ger time on a place )