In her talk Arnika Fuhrmann undertakes a queer-feminist analysis of the contemporary Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s videos about intimacy and exchange with the dead. From 1997 until the mid-2000s this artist returned repeatedly to a hospital morgue to perform with corpses in different scenes and arrangements. Focusing on conceptual and performative aspects of Rasdjarmrearnsook’s video work, this talk considers how scenarios of loss and invocations of scenes of intimacy are made to relate in the films. It examines how Rasdjarmrearnsook’s work defamiliarizes the popular conventions of depicting female death and attachment to the dead female body in Thailand.
Using death as a register of the sexual, Rasdjarmrearnsook’s videos aim to create feminist publics by rooting desire in literal forms of negativity. They deploy Buddhist melancholia, or the conventions of depicting female death and the erotic, to extend our notions of desire beyond physical possibility and to previously unimagined objects.
Arnika Fuhrmann is an interdisciplinary scholar of Southeast Asia, currently at Cornell University’s Department of Asian Studies, working at the intersections of the region’s aesthetic and political modernities. Her book Ghostly Desires: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema (2016) examines struggles over sexuality, personhood, and collectivity in contemporary Thai cinema. Her project Digital Futures: The Time and Politics of Media in South/East Asia focuses on how the study of new media allows for a perspective on the political public sphere that transcends commonplace distinctions between liberalism and illiberalism. This project intersects with her interests in the transformation of cities in contemporary Southeast and East Asia.