Friday, January 11, 2008

Making a difference in '07

Making a difference in '07

Already outstanding in their respective fields before the year began, these seven individuals truly shimmered in the limelight in 2007 for their creativity, talent - and even scandal

Published on December 30, 2007

Still only 20, Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana won deserved praise - including in the international news media - for both her superb sense of style and for enormously enhancing Thai fashion with her show at Paris Fashion Week in September.

Her debut collection of ready-to-wear for the Sirivannavari label had as its theme "The Presence of the Past", and on several levels at once it showed a harmonious integration of rich Thai culture with a modern context.

Inspired primarily by Her Majesty the Queen's impeccable sense of style and relying on the noble traditions of Thai craftsmanship, the Princess mingled silk from the Support Foundation with fabrics like chiffon to create a look that honoured its past and welcomed its future.

Upon her return from Paris, Princess Sirivannavari celebrated by sharing her collection and some clever designs for men at Elle Fashion Week. All of the pieces are on view at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre until January 20.

Meanwhile the Princess introduced a fragrance, Eau de Parfum HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, whose packaging alludes to the peacock symbol of her label.

And, to honour His Majesty the King, she created a limited-edition watch for Swatch called the "Happy 80th Birthday", which is embellished with rabbits, the zodiac sign of the King's birth year.

The New Year will see Princess Sirivannavari opening a boutique of her own.

Kupluthai Pungkanon


In the music: Retrospect

A double-barrelled assault on the charts this year lifted Retrospect from their underground hideaway to aboveground glory, making them the unquestioned surprise kings of Thai music in 2007.

The emo-rock band's first full-length album, "Unleashed", exploded out of Genie Records in April to sell 200,000 copies. Then came a live album, recorded at a sell-out concert in September, and another 100,000 discs flew off the shelves.

Retrospect's single "Sud Thi Rak" was the most downloaded song in its genre, and the follow-up, "Ploy Chan", is charting fast.

The band - singer Chanatha "Nap" Saisila, guitarist Thanapol "Not" Srikanjana, bassist Napwatchara "Bomb" Khachacheewa and drummer Suthiphand "Bird" Sangyuth - have their own community of fans called Retrorian.

Nap met Bomb at a computer-game shop in 2000 and, with Not and Bomb's elder brother Big, they put together a band and picked a name at random from the dictionary. It just happened to match their ambition for a rock revival that would wean kids off pop.

It was Big who devised Retrospect's unique "industrial metal" sound, using Nap's programmed drums. They sounded coarse, raw and as heavy as thrash metal.

Line-up changes followed, but in mid-2003 they came the self-produced EP "For Your Eyes Only". Later that year Retrospect played the Fat Festival and re-released their EP, retitled "For Your Ears Anytime".

The Genie deal came soon after, and Retrospect put their song "Mai Mee Ther" on the label's compilation indie album "Showroom Volume 1".

Success arrived and an evolution began. Today the band's sound is still metal-heavy but has the melodious tones of emo rock.

- Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul


On the stage: Nikorn Saetang

Director, playwright and actor Nikorn Saetang, 37, couldn't come up with the cash this year to open a proper playhouse, as planned. His company, Theatre 8X8, which had put on shows in a shophouse in the Samyan Market, is in fact currently homeless.

But Nikorn staged two of Bangkok's best-reviewed productions of 2007 - "Rai Pamnak" ("Where Should I Lay My Soul?") and "Chai Yak", a title he translated as "Gi(ant)".

In the former he worked with just two Japanese actors to build an entertaining and thought-provoking story about spiritual longing, possessive love, remembrances of peace and war. The latter, a satire on human vice, was a collaboration with Babymime troupe that won the Bangkok Theatre Festival's two top prizes.

The loud applause heard evening after evening proved that "less is more". Nikorn needed little scenery and no visual spectacle to showcase his performers' capabilities. The viewers' imagination filled out the rest.

With his growing resume of memorable work over the past decade - "Bangkok: Lovely Madness", "Insomnia", "Mouth" - Nikorn is a prime candidate for the Culture Ministry's Silpathorn Award next year.

- Pawit Mahasarinand


At the movies: Chookiat Sakveerakul

No one in the Thai arts field has faced criticism to the degree that Prof Dr Apinan Poshyananda has. The chairman of the Office of Knowledge Management and Development (OKMD) and director general of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC) formulates the government's policy governing art, cultures and design.

Apinan is admired for having an eye for good art. The former chief of Chulalongkorn University's Art Centre was elevated to the OCAC when the Culture Ministry was established in 2002. He had Thailand represented at the following year's Venice Biennale, garnering world attention for our arts scene.

Several million baht was invested in the Thai pavilion there for three consecutive years, and then Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sri-aroon announced a budget cut. Apinan managed to maintain a Thai presence there nevertheless.

Controversy has dogged his latest efforts, though, particularly the revamping of seven government arts units under OKMD, with an eye to better efficiency and cost control.

The Thailand Creative and Design Centre's operational budget is to be halved, to Bt75 million, and salaries slashed by 30 per cent. The operation will merge with the National Discovery Museum Institute and move across town to a less convenient, more poorly serviced site.

Academics, designers and fans of the design centre have expressed their displeasure, and the ministry's final decision is awaited. Apinan is unfazed: "I'm not afraid of the friction, because everything I do is for the country," he says.

- Khetsirin Pholdhampalit


By design: Singh Intrachooto

A chair made from orange peel. A cabinet made from milk cartons. A plastic shopping bag that stands on water-bottle caps. These are the kinds of ideas that earned Asst Prof Singh Intrachooto the titles Emerging Designer of the Year from Silpakorn University and Decor Designer of the Year from Elle magazine.

He is a founder and the principal designer at Osisu, a company that produces environmentally responsible furniture and other items, hand-crafted from construction waste or material discarded in the manufacturing process.

Singh's innovations are praised for adding value to overlooked resources and extending the life of natural materials.

"People see what I create as an architect, but actually I'm among the waste producers," says Singh, a bit too modestly for a man trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Reshaping scraps is what he calls his job. "Initially, I was too shy to tell anyone about my products because, professionally, we focused only on stylish designs, not sustainability."

In less than two years, his creations have become much sought after by collectors across Thailand and in Singapore, Taiwan, Los Angeles, Milan and Paris. His products won prizes at the 2006 Salons Francais et Internationaux Talents.

- Aree Chaisatien

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