Spirit House (Phra Phum) IV, 2022
The work belongs to a series of 3D models of houses based on interviews with Thai women living in Thailand and Berlin. In conversations with the artist, the women described their lost homes due to centralized developmental projects and necessary migration for employment, and their desires for reparation. The 3D reproductions are set in scale to spirit houses, or phra phum: sanctuaries found throughout Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries (Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines) which are dedicated to the patron spirit of a place. Spirit houses embody an animistic practice built both as a refuge for spirits and as a means of asking permission to use the land. The houses themselves resemble ornate dollhouses and are located outside the family home or business. Since spirits also need food, offerings such as flowers, fruit and pop are usually left behind. The cosmology of spirits in Thailand is vast– some are ancestors of the family, while others come with the earth and stay on the earth.
This idea of shared occupation in the context of spirit houses extends to the notion of migration, and how people occupy space. Spirit houses are nodes in larger metaphysical and ceremonial infrastructures that desire harmonious coexistence with the more-than-human. At their core lies a sensibility and a promise to care for something other than oneself, an acknowledgement of interdependency. If the significance of spirit houses and the notion of home in Thailand is locally situated, how can this translate to diasporic situations?
The house sculptures are an artistic proposal that gestures in this direction. They remain symbolic, not aiming for literal recreations but to represent a future-oriented gesture forming new collectivities and homes, elsewhere and otherwise. Communities, forever in the making.
Photos by Andrea Rossetti.