Pitchaya Ngamcharoen: "Who moves and who doesn’t?"
Pitchaya's 20 minute presentation for CONSTANT CRAVING ~ PERFORMING UNDER CONDITIONS - DAI's 3 day lectures and performances marathon at state of Concept in Athens ~ June 2018 was entitled
Sniffing – Shifting – Sweeping, the act of becoming….Who’s next?
The performance by Pitchaya Ngamcharoen is difficult to try and capture in text. That is because so much of the performance is based on the sense of smell, a particularly difficult sense to put on paper. Pitchaya starts her performance with a reflection on thankfulness: “thank you” can be the start or end of a movement or situation. She then sits on the floor, turns on a small light next to her. In front of her stands a small gas cooker. As she turns it on, we hear a voice recording in which Pitchaya is narrating a contemplation on identity and scent, scent as trace and transgression of boundaries. She lights a cigarette and starts smoking, and rubs her legs and arms with yellow spices.
Elsewhere in the room, three of Pitchaya’s fellow students start cooking, all illuminated by a single light source standing next to them. They are surrounded by cooking utensils; a gas cooker, small containers, and different spices, herbs and oils. As soon as they start cooking, other smells come in, but soon they weave together, making it hard to distinguish them which only becomes possible to get closer to their separate sources.
We hear: “We leave footsteps where we walk pass, breadcrumbs on the table where we had a sandwich, hairs that fall on the floor, trace of heat left on a window after we touch or a smell of food that lingers in the kitchen after we cook: a trace of existence, lines of habitation. Habitation, and not occupation. Being and living, not to take over or to conquer.”
The smell becomes so pervasive, that the disembodied voice almost drifts to the background. The audience is moving, drawn closer to the source of the scents and forming groups, breaking the smokes that carry scents of burned spices and oils and that gradually start to fill the whole room.
Pitchaya announces the end of the performance by saying ‘thank you’, as introduced in her introduction it can signal a beginning or an end. Here, it seems to be neither, as the performance continues by Pitchaya and her collaborators retracing or erasing their actions, and their scents. Pitchaya and her fellow students are cleaning, not only the marble floor that is filled with the remnants of this drama of scents, but also themselves; their arms, their feet. They are removing traces of smell by replacing them with different scents: of perfumes, of detergents.
Rachel opens by stating that this day of Graduation Acts is very well curated by presenting a range of practices that are individuating and collectivizing in very different ways. Pitchaya's performance was another interesting example of this; by employing different collaborators, different cooks, the interpretation wasn't singularized which was very powerful. The spoken text was very poetic, every line very complete, and the fact that the text was repeated meant that this didn't get lost in all the smells. The way Pitchaya was subtly performing classed rituals, slippages between things that are quite profane and things that look much more performatively ritualistic was done in very subtle but expanded way.
Maria Lind starts by commenting that she appreciated the molecular dramas and their multiplicities. At one point, Maria decided not to focus on defining the smells, and instead turn her attention to the collective effort of Pitchaya and her collaborators or fellow chemists and the rather unexpective things appearing from this. The performance and voice recording were both so substantive, that she would be interested in seeing them presented seperately.
Hypatia, as Pitchaya's thesis tutor, is thrilled to see how all the reading and theory were brought into this performance. It was interesting to see how Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology comes to life in this performance: Pitchaya insists that smell and taste are alternative vectors and sites for information. Smell as transgression but also ephemera as evidence presents a defiance, in the leaving of traces, was made all the more visible in the cleaning up. She concludes by saying that she appreciated the resistance to essentialism in this performance, by commenting on 'a matter out of place' but without essentializing those matters.
Learn more about Pitchaya Ngamcharoen’s written MA thesis: Common Scents A Social Sense of Smell: Orientation, Territory and the Evidence of Beings
Learn more about Pitchaya Ngamcharoen’s "life after DAI" by means of Pitchaya's website