Samak Kosem works in the field of anthropology and visual culture, his works portrayed through ethnography by movie image, photography, object and text. His conceptualising the ideas of queer, posthuman and trans-borders/bodies to refigure the possibility of its limits. Kosem graduated from Chiang Mai University with a BS in Anthropology in 2009 and MA in Social Development in 2013. He decided to continue his doctoral study at Chiang Mai University in Social Sciences to combine art and academics together, his current project to examine complexes of visuality and to investigate through the frameworks of transnational sexuality that circulate and connect to sexual discourse, practice and subjectivities on individual migratory and religiosity.
Kosem joined the first edition of Bangkok Art Biennale (2019) and his work was commissioned by Sunpride Foundation to produce the installation work Other Sheep (not of this fold) with artist Sornrapat Patharakorn (Bangkok, 2019). Kosem’s solo exhibitions include “Sacrifice” (VER Gallery Project Room, Bangkok, Thailand, 2019); “Not Waving But Drowning” (Gallery Seescape, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2019); “Otherwise Inside” (WTF Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018). His recent group exhibitions include “Trans-local Migrants on the Water” (Aura Contemporary Art Foundation, Osaka, Japan, 2021); “Displace, Embody” (Vargas Museum, The Philippines, 2020); “Survival of the Exceptional” (Tainan Art Museum, Taiwan, 2020); “Phantoms and Aliens” (Richard Koh Gallery, Singapore, 2020); “Bad Bodies” (Tomorrow Maybe Gallery, Hong Kong, 2019); his writing has recently been published by Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia.
Kosem currently lives and works in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Forever Checkpoint / 2019
Taking on the genre of a music video, Forever Checkpoint (2019) captures the journey of a Muslim woman driving towards her destination. Her apparent unease is triggered by the numerous border checkpoints along the way, featuring military propaganda and portraits of wanted state criminals. In the predominantly Buddhist Thailand, violent methods of state control in the name of national security are practiced towards the marginalized Islam population of the Deep South. As the woman passes through multiple border checkpoints unquestioned, assuming a new social identity becomes hopeful as socio-geographical borders are dissolved and trespassed one after another. An androgynous and anonymous hand believed to be Jinn, a mythological invisible being living in a parallel world, reaches out from behind and caresses the woman’s face in a moment of queer affect and intimacy. In a time when discriminant body searches, mandatory viral tests and restriction of movement become a lasting norm, Kosem implores viewers to reconsider our bodies as a site to negotiate the expression of freedom and sovereignty.
Aliens in Adam's Apple / 2020
Forming part of Kosem’s “Chiang Mai Ethnography” research project is Aliens in Adam’s Apple (2020) which explores the different modalities of masculinity within young Shan Burmese migrant men in Chiang Mai. In slow-motion, masqueraded muscular men dance topless in a flashy nightclub as disco lights trace their hypersexualized bodies. In subtitles, one liner messages taken from their Facebook pages address family, friends and loved ones back at home, expressing wistful feelings of tiredness, homesickness and displacement. Kosem opens up an affective space that recognises the complexities that come with desires for betterment in these young Shan men beyond the capitalistic commodification and exoticization of their bodies.