31 st Century Museum in Bangkok (the Land of Smiles)

The mind of love, living kindness, and fearlessness gives birth to freedom and creation.
The key to a happy society is fostering relationships among its members. It starts from paying attention to
the connection between people’s minds and what constantly happens around them. We can draw
inspirations from positive energy narratives—I refer to them as the ‘ready-made culture—and the truth
that transcends the conscious mind, and turn them into direct experiences through the process of self-
discovery. A deep understanding of what lies within us can be manifested in the form of physical art that
facilitates collaborative learning in the society and brings back the smile on everyone’s face. Because we
are society.

Similar to other metropolitan cities such as Tokyo, Paris, and New York, Bangkok is a metropolis with
high economic growth and materialistic progress. The dynamic global environment affects the livelihoods
of urban communities; natural surroundings are depleting while the once nature-dependent lifestyle has
turned into one that is economic, industry-oriented. As a result, people in modern society constantly chase
happiness through materialism and the acquisition of wealth, placing more values on objects rather than
mental connection. This has become a new social norm where problems and situations are evaluated and
judged on the basis of materialistic benefits rather than considering sentimental, ethical, cultural, and
environmental values.

Humans are social animals; we need to depend on each other for survival. Nothing in this world can exist
as a separate, independent, and self-contained entity. Relationship is the meaning of existence. Due to
the lack of thorough understanding of oneself and others, all our conflicts arise from relationships at all
levels of our existence. Therefore, gaining insight into oneself is truly imperative to the understanding of
our relationships with our surroundings. We need to pay attention to each and every thought as it occurs
and consider it in relation to other social affairs, whether those found in the breaking news or small
unknown incidents. This is because these social occurrences directly shape our thoughts and perceptions
towards our relationship with society, influencing our selection of what we believe is good and true
information worthy of passing along.

This project aims to produce a compilation of ready-made culture activities around Bangkok and present it
to the public eye again through systematic learning process and critical analysis. The results will be
presented using different alternative methods of communication and various forms of contemporary
artworks. The project’s participants will get to learn about the relationships which evolve as creative
ideation is manifested into physical art, in which inspiration is turned into a direct experience in the
creative process, before being presented to the public in the form of physical object.
The fact that Thailand was once widely known as ‘the Land of Smiles’ has a significant implication that
helps us to see and understand the fundamental values underlying the beautiful culture of Thai society in
the past. It is undeniable that Thai society has changed tremendously since then, but all the crew of the
project “31 st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit in Bangkok” still believe that the smiles and strong
sense of kind hospitality still exist in the Thais and all humanity alike. Our objective is to create physical
manifestations of these abstract attributes. However, achieving this goal will not be possible without
everyone’s cooperation by sharing the personal experience of the ready-made culture which appears in the
form of love and living kindness, in order to return the smiles back to everyone who see the artworks.
Smile and inspiration.

So many good things happen around Bangkok, some make headlines while many go unrecognized or
unheard except for the person who experienced the event firsthand. One example is the kind taxi driver
named Narong Sai-rat who drives the car with a plate number MT 9569. He always saves up the tips from
passengers to buy daily necessities, such as snacks, instant noodles, condoms, pens, and even kitchen
utensils, and store these items inside his car to give away as tokens of appreciation for his customers. It is
his way of paying back to his passengers for choosing his service.
Another example worth mentioning is Patama Roonrakwit who founded Community Architects for
Shelter and Environment (CASE) in 1997 to help slum communities and people living in poverty. The
slum community in the neighborhood of Min Buri Old Market, Bangkok, is located close to her house.
Seven years ago, she started some activities with the locals and children in that area, with the fundamental
belief that all humans have the same value, despite our differences in profession and social status. Her
initiative began with the firm belief that success lies in the community’s cooperation without setting
monetary rewards as their first priority. Roonrakwit believed that success could still be attained even withzero funding.
That is how she is recognized as the “slum architect”.

I was really impressed with her project in the slum community in Min Buri Old Market. Roonrakwit
recalled the first time surveying the area when her team was regarded as strangers, and the community
was not willing to cooperate with her. Part of the locals’ reluctance was because the area is regarded as
illegal squatter settlement, thus enduring a long-term conflict with the authorities. Consequently, no
governmental funds or budgets had ever been granted to the community. Roonrakwit then started out her
project by working with children that tagged along her survey team. Her initial aim was to build a
playground; however, after asking the children what they actually wanted, most of their responses turned
out to be a swimming pool. The result both surprised and worried everyone in the team because it was
almost impossible without the budget. But after a deeper inquiry, the team found the description of a
swimming pool between adults (the survey team) and children to be largely different. According to
children, they merely wanted a 3×5 meters pool—just as big as the size of a small pond. After that, a
swimming pool was built through collaborative efforts of the children, parents, as well as a group of
volunteers comprising of both Thai and foreign architect students. Roonrakwit remarked that it was very
fortunate for the community to be accessible only through a small footbridge crossing a canal, thus no cars
could be used. This means people must carry everything across the bridge by themselves. Most people,
including me, will probably perceive this issue of inaccessibility as a problem or an obstacle. For
Roonrakwit, however, it benefits this initiative as it encourages unity, participation, and strong
sense of community.

From a playground to a swimming pool, later on the boys requested a football field which was strongly
opposed by the girls, who preferred a library where they can read and do their homework in the evening.
A community library was then built to accommodate their needs, followed by a community tool shed and
other places for community purposes. During the 3-month school holiday each year, Roonrakwit and her
students, as well as children and the community members will gather up and fix, build, or develop
something that the community needs. From this point, people in the community started to come together
and take the initiative to contribute to public goods by themselves, like building a new bridge or raising
the road level with concrete to prevent floods, without having to wait for the school holiday.
Another impressive story was told by Atcharaporn Ganghae. She recalled her encounter with a homeless
man without a shirt on who looked emaciated as if he had been starving for days. Walking past him,
awave of sympathy surged through her, so she offered him a bag with two pieces of bread inside. He took
one and handed another back to her, saying, “Thank you, but one is enough for me.” This might not seem
to be anything extraordinary, but instead she was deeply affected by it as the incident caused her to
realize the value and significance of self-sufficiency and self-moderation.

Another shareworthy story was from Jakkrit Sue-ob who expressed his impression on an elderly couple
who continues to sell their food at the price as cheap as 15 baht per dish when it normally costs 30-40 baht
to eat the same type of food elsewhere. They also offer generous portions for the customers who are
mostly low-income and blue-collar workers in the neighborhood. Not aiming to accumulate wealth, the
couple are dedicated to helping others by adhering religiously to the principles of meritism instead
of capitalism (focusing solely on profit maximization for oneself).

The four examples above should provide us some guidelines of how to practice mindfulness in our
relationships. A closer look at our everyday life situations might reveal some positive stories, which,
unfortunately, are often perceived as irrelevant, and thus overlooked. But the truth of nature always
radiates pure energy of love and living kindness that leads to a positive attitude and a higher self-concept.
It is impossible to determine whose stories are more significant or better, as they all have meanings and
unique values relative to temporal and spatial relationships that vary with each individual. This means that
when we smile, the society will also smile with us.
Because, ultimately, we are society.

Note: Some concepts have been derived from The Mirror of Relationship by J. Krishnamurti.

Kamin Lertchaiprasert
22 September 2017

Process and timeframe (subject to change if necessary)

1. A lecture on the concept and the creative process of Kamin Lertchaiprasert
(approximately 2 hours) with 200 expected participants, and the public to be given
unlimited access to join. The main group of participants comprises of interested students
from Poh-Chang Academy of Arts. (January, 2018)

2. A lecture on the making of the 31 st Century Museum in Bangkok (the Land of
Smiles), providing, for example, suggestions on exhibit selection criteria as well as
appropriate forms or techniques of presentation (approximately 1 hour). Activities 1 and
2 can be scheduled on the same day as back-to- back lectures or divided into morning and
afternoon sessions. (January, 2018)

3. First nomination of topics or events the project participants find impressive
(February, 2018)

4. In case of sufficient budget and depending on the participants’ personal preference, a
field trip to Chiang Mai will be arranged for participants to learn from the 31 st
Century Museum in Chiang Mai ( or join a Vipassana
meditation retreat as taught by S.N. Goenka ( The
activity will enable them to gather deeper insight into the concept behind, and the
experience of, the state of “equanimity”, an unshakable balance of mind, helping them to
practice seeing things as they are, not how we want them to be. (February, 2018)

5. Second nomination of topics or events the project participants find impressive
(February, 2018). Locations across Bangkok that are deemed interesting and
quintessential for the project will be selected for site survey. The number of locations
depend on time and budget requirements. (March – May, 2018)

6. Meeting and exhibition design—a period for individual artists to create their works
for display in five spacious exhibition rooms. This means there should be no less than
150 participants, or at least approximately 150 exhibits in total. (June – September, 2018)

7. Produce exhibition materials, including programs and folding maps, to show the
locations of where each experience of inspiration actually took place. The venue of
the exhibition is a gallery at Poh-Chang Academy of Arts which serves as a station
to display artworks, where students get to conduct an experiment, engage with
creative process, and interact with the general audience. (September – October, 2018)

8. Officially launch the exhibition. All students must work collaboratively in each and every
step, learn to take responsibility, and take the initiative to solve problems under the
guidance and support of the artists and curator. In fact, the main objective of this project
is to engage students to organize workshop and introduce them to process art. I
personally believe that art is the process that allows us to gain an insight into oneself,
society, and nature. In order to realize the forgotten values of truth, virtue, and beauty

that have lain deep within us since the day we were born, we first need to help bring back
the smile on our faces. (November, 2018 – January, 2019)


Share Published on Feb 21, 2018 at 12:21 am.
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