Bon Chic, Bon Craft — The Exhibition of Cultural Creative Industries of Taiwan and Thailand (夯工藝、靚時尚—台灣VS泰國文化創意產業特展), which opens Saturday at the National Taiwan Craft Research Institute (國立台灣工藝研究所) in Nantou, might sound like a somewhat dry affair. Indeed, it will have its share of seminars for industry professionals and government staffers, but it will also be enlivened by an exhibition of Thai and Taiwanese design, and on the opening day will feature a joint Thai/Taiwanese production of Monkey Kings, based on the shared traditions of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, and Sun Wukong (孫悟空), the monkey king of Chinese legend.
Design has become an integral part of our daily lives, and most people are now familiar enough with various broad styles to recognize the minimalist lines of Nordic design, the rugged utilitarianism of German design, the playful elegance of Italian design and so on. One of the newest members of this celebrity group of design-conscious nations is Thailand.
The Land of Smiles has achieved the remarkable feat of transforming indigenous cultural elements and combining them with its long tradition of handicrafts to produce a very contemporary yet unmistakably Thai design style with an environmentally conscious bent.
The exhibition traces the development of Thailand’s design industry through objects from the furnishings of a Thai royal court, cottage industry products and their transformation into contemporary fashion, and branded items with internationally recognized labels, as well as their success in using eco-friendly materials such as rattan and bamboo. Exhibited in tandem will be examples of Taiwanese design, also ranging from items heavily influenced by tradition, to more contemporary and environmentally conscious items.
At a press event on Tuesday, institute director Lin Cheng-yi (林正儀) lauded the success of Thailand’s One Tambon, One Product (a tambon is a government unit smaller than a province) project, which encouraged each region to develop a craft specialization to vitalize the local economy, and pointed to the achievements of Taiwan’s own community empowerment projects in building a unique Taiwanese aesthetic, especially in the area of handicrafts. The exhibition covers three floors and runs until April 5 next year.
The opening night features a production of Monkey Kings that brings together Thailand’s Joe Louis Puppet Theater and Taiwan’s own Taiyuan Puppet Theater (台原偶戲團), which has proved an energetic ambassador for Taiwanese glove puppetry through bold collaborations with international theater and puppet troupes. Both the Joe Louis Puppet Theater and Taiyuan access ancient traditions but have found ways of making them retain their appeal in the 21st century. This leveraging of tradition is at the heart of the Bon Chic, Bon Craft. Monkey Kings will performed on Saturday at 7pm, in the plaza outside the National Taiwan Craft Research Institute.
Four seminars on the Thai experience of branding, marketing and economic development through design will be held on Sunday from 8am. The institute is located at 573 Chungcheng Rd, Tsaotun Township, Nantou County (南投縣草屯鎮中正路573號). For additional information, visit the institute’s Web site at www.ntcri.gov.tw.
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