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Meet Looksorn Thitipuk Teeratrakul

Today we’d like to introduce you to Looksorn Thitipuk Teeratrakul.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born to a poor Chinese-Thai family, my great-parents immigrated and worked as farmers. My parents grew up farming as well but they attempted to start an ice business to escape poverty. I’m the oldest daughter of 3 siblings, we lived in a three-story building right outside of Bangkok on top of our first ice shop. I was ten days old when I first encountered ice. I grew up surrounded by migrant workers from nearby countries, the majority of them from Myanmar. As my family became more established, I discovered an old film camera and began shooting when I was 14. My parents had an aspiration for me to become a professional golfer and urge me to pursue photography as a hobby. After I graduated from high school in 2010, I moved to the east coast for college and I spent seven years in Northern Virginia/DC area. I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to a master’s degree. At present, I have a BFA in Photography from George Mason University (2016) and an MFA in Photography and Media from California Institute of the Arts (2019). After I moved to the United States and began attending college, my professional outlook and ambitious changed dramatically. My focus shifted from golf to becoming a visual artist.

Please tell us about your art.
My parents built an ice factory in 2010, at this point, I shifted from being the daughter of a small business owner to the daughter of factory owners. Out of this transition, I became aware of the privileges granted along with their success. I began to explore the realities of my parent’s business as well as examine my relationship with my parents and the immigrant labor force through documentary practice. At the same time, I observed the bribe culture, labor politics, and my privilege as the daughter of the owner and as an artist.

Ice harvest is an ongoing photographic/film documentary series. When my parents sent me to the United States, I was able to examine their business as an outsider with an insider’s perspective. I began noticing the classism and analyze my privilege deeply. At this point, I recalled memories of my family when we were living in poverty before the ice business was successful. We don’t have a free education in Thailand and my parents almost couldn’t afford to send me to a kindergarten. I recalled my parents having to bribe the police in the middle of the night to release their legally employed workers due to police corruption. My first response was immense frustration with the corruption in Thailand: xenophobia, the police, local politics, city bureaucracy, and the larger government. Out of this experience with this injustice, I felt a deep need to investigate the reality of the migrant workforce.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
As an artist, I can only speak for myself. I’m a Thai citizen residing in Los Angeles and it has been extremely difficult to find a job that will allow me to obtain a work permit. The requirements involve gaining employment with a salary of at least $60,000 within a year after graduating. This is an unfortunate reality that I face and is detrimental to my practice because I will likely have to return to Thailand and leave my art community in Los Angeles behind. Through my experience in graduate school, my community has been invaluable to my growth as an artist with critiques, alternative group exhibitions and challenges me to work outside of photographic media to pursue a variety of different art forms. My work is political and critical of the corrupt politics in Thailand, the reception of my work would be viewed as challenging authority. Exhibiting my work in this environment puts me at risk, in which I could be arrested for highlighting the corruption. Additionally, I would have substantially fewer opportunities to exhibit my work, gain employment in my field and have a significantly smaller work artist community to engage with due to national censorship.

At present, the gallery system is the dominant force in the art world and established an aesthetic trend that generally excludes social documentary. This system is concerned primarily with art as a commodity and is wholly predatory toward emerging artists. It has become more difficult for artists to utilize their skills to gain employment and access to a variety of art residencies for professional development requires financial contributions on behalf of the artist. Due to this, professional advancement is contingent on access to finances and this is an exclusive manner of moving forward within the art world.

Alternative gallery spaces are important to help artists thrive because they are an inclusive diverse range of artists and art forms. In addition to this, it is against the exclusivity of the dominant gallery convention and accessible to the public provides a wide range of audiences. It is essential that the artists are connected with the audience both through their work and conversations thus with accessible alternative gallery spaces make it achievable.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Spreading word out about my work is much appreciated. Let’s connect or even collaborate on some work.

I have most of my work on my website thitipukteeratrakul.com and Instagram @looksorn.ism

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Image Credit:
A portrait of Looksorn by Shelby Poor
1 and 2 – Installation shot by Looksron from Ice Harvest Chapter III – Thanawan exhibition
3 – Clocking out by Looksorn
4,5,6,7 – by Looksorn from Ice Harvest Chapter III
8 – Select portraits by Looksorn from Ice Harvest

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