Choose your own exhibition

“LR” by Wisut Ponnimit At Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Sathon 1 Open from Wednesday to Sunday, 1-7pm Until June 25. Photos courtesy of Bangkok Citycity Gallery

Wisut Ponnimit’s comics are cute, but in the context of a large-scale exhibition, they’re positively delightful. Much to the joy of his fans, the multi-talented comics artist has returned to his home base at Bangkok CityCity Gallery for another fun and immersive exhibition, titled “LR”, that runs until June 25.

Coming two years after “Melo House”, his first, successful solo exhibition — which featured a choose-your-own-adventure maze installation — “LR” follows a similar concept, this time with short animations, and (sadly) no maze.

Walking into the dark exhibition room, visitors are faced with three large partitioned white walls. The centre wall lights up, projecting Wisut’s cute and quirky characters in a certain scenario or predicament. For example, his beloved character Mamuang attempting to eat a large burger. The scenarios then split into two different choices: Make what you eat smaller so it can fit in your mouth, or make your mouth as big as what you eat. Visitors then have to choose — walking either to the left screen or the right to see their consequences come alive. With around 10 scenarios playing on a loop, expect to walk around and have a bit of fun — unless you’re one of those who decide to watch all three screens at the same time, which isn’t the point of the exhibition at all.

In another room of the gallery hangs Wisut’s original animation drawings and another small interactive animation room, containing a retrospective of Wisut’s first “LR” exhibition, in Kyoto, Japan, in 2009. Visitors have to line up to go into the small room one by one to, again, see their choices come alive.

The scenarios and predicaments all seem cute and innocent, but anyone who’s a fan of Wisut knows that his works go much deeper than that. As an artist who believes his skills are less than average compared to other comic artists, Wisut has always focused on his stories and the meaning and teachings behind each one.

Life caught up with the artist amidst his busy schedule to talk about “LR” and the life lessons he wants visitors to take away.

How did you pick the scenarios you’re projecting?

I try to create situations that have options in perspectives that are clear-cut. For example, “Will you be satisfied with yourself, or will you not be satisfied with yourself?”. I create situations that make you look at yourself in different perspectives — situations where we choose and we see our own heart. For example, there’s one of a character driving. A driver cuts in front of you. Will you choose to be mad or will you forgive? If you choose to go down the angry path, you get this consequence, if you forgive, you go towards another path. They’re situations that tell you: if your heart is like this, this will be the outcome.

So there are lessons and teachings in each scenario?

With these situations, it comes naturally. You can see the path of life. We have this life because of our own choices. Nobody is forcing you [to react a certain way]. For example, when we’re mad at someone, nobody threw the anger at you; it’s because you choose to be mad. Before we have this feeling of anger, we have a choice to either be mad or to forgive. I want people to see this exhibition and notice this — that before something happens, there are always choices available.

You chose to incorporate other characters in this exhibition as well. Why?

When there are other characters, they’re able to send the message in more ways. For example, if I want to tell the story of a woman showing her cleavage, if I use Mamuang it would be strange. So I’m using different characters that are appropriate to convey the message that I want to convey. It’s about perspective and choice, so I had to find many perspectives from different characters.

You’ve always focused on drawing comics that are quite deep in meaning. Where does that come from?

When I was young, I read a cartoon by this Japanese artist and felt his stories made my heart swell. After reading them, I wanted to write stories like that, not just stories like the others, in which the protagonist fights, wins, and then it ends. Real life isn’t like this. Not everybody wins in life. Only one person wins and what does everyone else do? For the most part, I’m not a winner. I’m a person who doesn’t draw well, I’m not the best. So looking at things from a different perspective helped me. Instead of everyone having the same goal, which is to be number one, I like drawing stories that have different viewpoints. For example, if you don’t win, can you be happy? If you’re heartbroken, can you be happy? And how? If we can find different perspectives, we can be happy in different ways. In the end, it’s how we look at things. So my works deal with angles and perspectives.

There’s one scenario of a woman getting her face dirty and the choices are to either wash it off instantly or wash it later, could you explain that?

That’s about daily life as well. It’s like when you leave your dishes in the sink. We think tomorrow we’ll do the dishes anyway so I’ll leave them there first. And tomorrow comes, but you not only have to deal with dirty dishes, but cockroaches as well. Leaving it there doesn’t mean that it ends there. Thinking about these things, I drew them as fun cartoons so people could go back to reflect on their daily lives.

What were some of the biggest challenges of this project?

I want visitors to come in and run around and relax, not stand there and be stressed out. It’s challenging in that I don’t know whether they will do that for me. [On the first days] some people didn’t understand that they had to choose. They’ll watch all three screens simultaneously or just watch one screen the whole time. So I have to fix that. How can I communicate to them for them to do that. I guess that’s challenging. I can’t guess how the visitors are going to view the works. Right now we’re trying to adjust the walls a bit so people can walk around more and make it seem like a game. I’m currently making new episodes to add in as well. I’m not sure when, but definitely before the show ends [chuckles].