The Breathing of Maps


The Japan Foundation Asia Center together with MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum and Jim Thompson Art Center presented “The Breathing of Maps,” a series of events based on Thongchai Winichakul, a Thai historian, term of “geo-body”. The project had been held in Yamaguchi and Tokyo before coming to Chiang Mai and Bangkok as its final destination. This project examined the social transformations occurring in the layers of time that lie between maps as it explored the “living geo-bodies” shaped by the ongoing accumulation of human activity.


The program included lecture and lecture performance by artists and researchers from Southeast Asia and Japan based on their own unique research into the history, culture, politics, economics, folkways, and other social phenomena of their respective countries.


Chiang Mai

Date: January 25 – 30, 2020
Venue: MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum
The Wandering Moon Theatre & Depsiri Gallery
Free Admission



Date: February 1, 2020
Venue: Araya Hall, Jim Thomson House
Free Admission


Events Schedule

The Breathing of Maps

Saturday, 25 January at MAIIAM

13.00- [Special tour] San Kamphaeng 101 : special temple, food, craft & studio tour
by Gridthiya Gaweewong
Admission: 50 people
Gridthiya Gaweewong is a Yong curator based in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  The Yong are a Tai ethnic group who migrated from Shan state to the Lanna Kingdom in the 19th century – dispersing across the northern region and becoming famous for their woodcraft and textiles.  In this event, Gaweewong walked through the memories of her family’s origins in Kosaliam, a small village in San Kamphaeng, before they migrated to Chiang Saen in Chiang Rai after World War II.  Beginning from the Kosaliam temple, this special tour included a stop at the Huang Jai Yong Restaurant and visits to some local craft workshops and artist studios.  During this journey, Gaweewong discussed the cultural and socio-political context of San Kamphaeng in relation to Thailand, and how this district has been transformed by periods of decline and revitalization.
19.00- [Lecture performance] An Imperial Sake Cup & I
by Charnvit Kasetsiri
Directed by Ka-ge Teerawat Mulvilai, Nonthawat Numbenchaphol & Anan Krudphet
Admission: 120 people
An Imperial Sake Cup and I is a lecture performance by Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, a renowned historian and specialist in Southeast Asia studies.  Charnvit draws a connection between his relationship with the Japanese army in his hometown Nong Pla Duk, Ban Pong, during World War II.  In 1964, Crown Prince Akihito and his consort officially visited Thailand, and as a junior member of the Bangkok Municipality welcome team, Charnvit was given a royal sake cup which he has kept ever since.  In this lecture performance, he traces personal and micro narratives to reflect objects and memories as well his witnessing of the global social transformation from the Japanese presence in Thailand, the Vietnam War, and the 1970s student uprising in Thailand.  He juxtaposes Thailand and Japanese history and subtly unravels the comparison of these two countries.  This lecture performance is co-directed by Teerawat ‘Ka-ge’ Mulvilai (performance / stage), Nonthawat Numbenchaphol and Anan Krudphet (video, moving images), and is produced by Gridthiya Gaweewong.


Sunday, 26 January at MAIIAM
Moderated by Sing Suwannakij

14.00- [Talk] Map, Mourning and Monument
by Thanavi Chotpradit
Admission: 40 people
The modern map of Thailand is seen as a representation of the Thai kingdom’s ‘geo-body’.  By defining national territory, the geographic map aims to delineate the entire national space, which in turn contributes significantly to the nationalist imagination under the rule of the Thai monarch, as a ‘kingdom’.  This presentation discusses the role of maps, the expression of mourning, and the erection of monuments both during the Cold War and after the passing of King Bhumibol. It shows how Thai nationalist imagination moves from the idea of the nation as territorial entity to something beyond that.


15.00- [Talk] The 1903 World’s Native Building and Exposition
by Masashi Kohara
Admission: 35 people
From 1877, National Industrial Exhibitions were held in Japan to introduce the advanced technologies of Europe and America, as well as to promote the development of new local industries.  In 1903, against the backdrop of Japanese rule over Taiwan, the 5th National Industrial Exhibition was held in Osaka, providing an important opportunity to display the might of Japanese imperialism to people in Japan and around the world.  Using newly discovered photographs from the 1903 Exhibition, this talk provided observations into modern images of the Japanese ‘self’ and ‘other’, with a focus on the Human Pavilion created at the Exhibition’s Anthropological Hall.


Monday, 27 January at MAIIAM

19.00- [Lecture performance] Name Laundering
by Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina
Admission: 40 people
As part of their ongoing 10-year series of artistic and social interventions reflecting on the geopolitical issues in the Pacific Ring of Fire, this lecture performance by Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina re-examines the relations between Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in the Straits of Malacca, one of the most important waterways in Southeast Asia.


Responding to state and border controls created from colonialism, nationalism and capitalism, they propose eight ways to penetrate the borders of Singapore without passing official immigration channels – inspired by historical acts of seafaring, smuggling, subversion and ‘sumpah’ (the making of sacred oaths).


Tuesday, 28 January
at The Wandering Moon Theatre & Depsiri Gallery

18.00- [Talk] Stranger Encounters: Between Ayutthaya and Awamori
by Yudai Kamisato
Admission: 35 people
Using his Peruvian-Japanese citizenship as a haphazard compass to engage in chance encounters and research across South America, Japan and the Ryukyu islands, theatre director Yudai Kamisato is fascinated by the collective stories of migrants in faraway lands.  In this talk, he reflected on the duty of the ‘stranger’ in excavating the deep realities of the local community, and in imagining how life could be in a place not of his or her belonging.


For this event, Yudai invited everyone to join in drinking awamori, a popular Okinawan alcoholic beverage distilled from long grain Thai indica rice – a practice which dates back to 15th century Ayutthaya.  In Chiang Mai, he wanted to meet people who share an interest in this cultural-alcohol exchange.


20:00- [Lecture performance] Shadow World
by Monthatip Suksopha
Admission: 30 people
In this unique lecture performance, Chiang Mai-based contemporary shadow puppeteer Monthatip Suksopha reflected on her personal artistic journey.  She shared fragments of images, memories and stories from across her long career – employing old and new puppets, DIY lights, and a plethora of objects stored and archived in her studio.  By opening up her home and workspace, Tip invited the audience to cross over from the physical world to a shadow world of energy and spirit.


Wednesday, 29 January at MAIIAM

19.00- [Lecture performance] Asia the Unmiraculous
by Ho Rui An
Admission: 45 people
Departing from the 1997 regional financial crisis, Asia the Unmiraculous investigates a transnational narrative of Asian miracle, crisis and recovery.  Having conducted extensive research in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, Ho Rui An tracks the emergence, transmission and circulation of Asian economic futurisms in popular culture and the mainstream media – examining the external and internal demands for control of the nation-state through the leitmotif of ‘the human hand’.


Thursday, 30 January at MAIIAM

19.00- [Lecture] The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia
by Ho Tzu Nyen
Admission: 42 people
The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia (CDOSEA), begins with a question: what constitutes the unity of Southeast Asia — a region never unified by language, religion or political power?  CDOSEA proceeds by proposing 26 terms — one for each letter of the English / Latin alphabet.  Each term is a concept, a motif, or a biography, and together they are threads weaving together a torn and tattered tapestry of Southeast Asia.  CDOSEA is a platform facilitating ongoing research, a matrix for generating future projects and an oracular montage machine.


Saturday, 1 February at Araya Hall, Jim Thompson House

19.00- [Symposium] Between Geo-Bodies and the Unforgetting
by Thongchai Winichakul, Irwan Ahmett, Tita Salina, Kumiko Idaka, Mark The
Admission: 120 people
As the concluding event in The Breathing of Maps project which has been presented in Yamaguchi and Tokyo, Japan and in Chiang Mai, this symposium featured reflections by curators Kumiko Idaka and Mark Teh, and a talk on mapping, power and the geo-body by eminent historian Thongchai Winichakul – whose groundbreaking book Siam Mapped(1994) served as a conceptual compass for the project, alongside Japanese folklorist Tsuneichi Miyamoto (1907-1981)’s The Forgotten Japanese: Encounters with Rural Life and Folklore (2010).


In the final part of the symposium, Thongchai, Kumiko and Mark were joined by Jakarta-based artists Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina to discuss the issues of traumatic and inconvenient histories across Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand, and its relationship to ‘the unforgetting’.  The unforgetting is a term coined by Thongchai in his forthcoming book – as an inability to remember or to forget.  Suspended in this liminal state, these are experiences that have to be repressed or suppressed because they do not cohere to articulating socially meaningful memories under existing regimes of truth.


Co-organized by