The years 2021-2022 will be critical as global threats multiply from pandemic to climate change to patching up the new world disorder. With deep-rooted problems and schism through political differences, racism and hate crimes, Americans need to limit the flexing of their military muscle overseas. Withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan marked the end of an era in which USA use of military power to remake other countries. On the other hand, China, which came out of the pandemic crisis relatively unscathed, continue to develop the overhype of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The global shift of power is clearly evident as climate destruction, collapse in economic infrastructure and international insecurity have turned the world into chaos.
Humankind has suffered despair, isolation, fear and death. Chaos in Greek cosmology refers to the void state preceding the creation of universe or cosmos. Chaos precedes Gaea and Eros (earth and desire). In the state of utter confusion and disorder, we live with unpredictability and fear as we are not used to such intense catastrophe with its ripple effects.
The race for vaccines to prevent the spread of pandemic have caused further concerns. Paradoxically, as the supplies became available vaccine diplomacy and vaccine wars resulted in unequal distributions and availability on the market. Many anti-vaxxers and skeptics worried about rushed certification of vaccines. There is no assurance of the aftereffects in the long run. Despite delay and disappointment, to make matters worse, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) has many variants including Alfa (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), Delta (B.1.617.2), Eta (B.1.525), Iota (B.1.526), Kappa (B.1.617.1), Lambda (C.37) and Mu (B.1.621). The vaccines available cannot fully protect and most likely these viruses will be with us for a long time. What does this mean? More deaths, more vaccination for patients with more profits for vaccine markets. The vicious cycles have depleted some countries into state of crisis as governments have failed to solve calamity and chaos.
The impact of the pandemic on the art ecosystem has caused a deep slump worldwide. Facing unprecedented upheaval and fight for survival, art and creativity often seen as luxury, have been under threat. Cancellation, postponement and delay together with budget cuts and unemployment resulted in unpredictability at all levels. Challengingly, art sectors that manage to recover and reinvent themselves fastest will find innovative ways to survive.
Bangkok Art Biennale 2020 was one of the few international art events that went as planned despite the spread of the pandemic and political unrest. The theme Escape Routes was related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030. Learning to survive the hard way meant facing obstacles ranging from logistical nightmare, travels and quarantine, social distancing for art viewing, on sight tours and virtual viewing online. Despite no vaccines at the time, but fortunate enough the first wave of COVID-19 was mild with semi-lockdown, over 400,000 viewers experienced the art event on sites in Bangkok with over 2.3 million viewers reached in virtual and online.
Bangkok Art Biennale 2022 under the theme CHAOS : CALM will take place during 22 October 2022 to 23 February 2023. The binary opposite of chaos and calm will reflect the zeitgeist of the confusing world we live in. Artists whose works reflect turbulence, trauma and angst remind us of fragility of life at the time of pandemic, climate change, environment detriment, politics and clashes in ideologies. In the dystopian and delusional world, the artists reveal consequences of destruction of humankind and nature from their own making.
Amidst chaos, there are glimpses of hope and serendipity as human and nature slowly come to terms with survivalism. With the immensity of detriment and destruction, ways of life will never return to what once known as normalcy. Discovery of calmness in turmoil can be unexpectedly enriching through sagacity and chance. Such process covers a wide range of demands including empathy, patience, allure and humor. Calmness and tranquility can still be experienced simultaneously in our new world of post-pandemic and upheaval.