What Falls To The Ground But Cannot Be Eaten is an installation by Laotian artist Vong Phaophanit. It consists of two main elements: a forest of bamboo suspended from the ceiling of the gallery covering an area of 10x5m, and a monumental archway made of lead-covered wooden blocks, inscribed with Laotian text. The artist’s selection of materials is key to this work:
In Laos bamboo is everywhere; we use it for constructing houses, as a cooking utensil, for canalizing water, for storage purposes, we eat it, we sleep on it, we make musical instruments with it. Its uses and forms are infinite…and then lead came to me as an equally strong butvery different presence over here. I saw that the two would work beautifully together, reciprocally opening each other up both on a visual and discursive level.
The relationship between the two elements of the work became crucial. The austere archway entrance was reminiscent of civic and ecclesiastical architecture, whereas the natural forms of the suspended bamboo create a light, organic feel. The work reflects the bizarre incongruities resulting from a collision of different cultures, and was informed to a large extent by the artist’s experience as a political refugee.
Vong Phaophanit was born in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos in 1961. From 1980 to 1985, he was educated in France at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Aix. He currently lives and works in the UK.
Click here for the accompaning publication to this exhibtion in the shop.
Published by Chisenhale, 1991
Paperback, colour and b+w illustrations, pp 24
Text by Claire Oboussier; interview with the artist by Jonathan Watkins
Perhaps the greatest danger when writing about work like Vong Phaophanit’s is to resort to the artist’s personal history to ‘explain’ the work. The use of this sort of “biographism” as a principle of explanation imposes immediate limitations on the work itself by grounding it as the unproblematic expression of a fixed identity. Phaophanit’s work moreover is fundamentally at odds with this system of interpretation in that it is not rooted in a preconceived meaning but rather engaged in the process of making new meanings. Therefore, important and valid as his personal experience undoubtedly is, its position in terms of the work is that of a point of departure and should not be taken to contain a hermeneutic authority.
For more information about the exhibition please click here
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