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PG Creative Practice and Art Theory | Department
Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media | Research

May Adadol Ingawanij is a moving image theorist and curator based at the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media, where she co-directs the CREAM Doctoral Programme. 

May is writing a book provisionally titled Animistic Cinema: Moving Image Performance and Ritual in Thailand. Recent and upcoming English-language publications include ‘Long Walk to Life: the Films of Lav Diaz’ (Afterall Journal Autumn/Winter 2015); 'Animism and the Performative Realist Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul,' in Screening Nature: Cinema Beyond the Human, Anat Pick and Guinevere Narraway, eds., (Oxford: Berghahn, 2013); Glimpses of Freedom: Independent Cinema in Southeast Asia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2012); 'Mother India in Six Voices: Melodrama, Voice Performance and Indian Films in Siam,' in BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies, 2012; ‘Nguyen Trinh Thi’s Essay Films,’ in Engaged Practices: Writings on Women Artists and the Moving Image, Lucy Reynolds, ed., (IB Tauris, forthcoming); 'Image Mobility, Artistic Dispositif and Animistic Cinema,' submitting to Southeastofnow journal; ‘Benedict Anderson and Aan/Read Journal,’ Kritika Kultura journal, forthcoming; ‘The Quest,’ in Palgrave Asian Cinema Handbook, Gina Marchetti and Tan See Kam, eds. (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

May writes on moving image, art, film history, and Southeast Asia for a wide range of general print and online publications. She writes in English and Thai and her work has been translated into Portuguese, Norwegian, and Korean, among other languages. 

Recent and upcoming curatorial projects include Southern Collectives (with the Experimenta Cinema in Asia Network, Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento, Buenos Aires, 2016); Attachments and Unknowns (with Sa Sa Bassac, Phnom Penh, January 2017); Comparing Experimental Cinemas (with Experimenta India, Bangalore 2014); Forces and Volumes screening programme (BIMI Essay Film Festival, London 2015; Asian Artists Film and Video Forum, MMCA Seoul 2015); Reuse Retell screening programme (CIRCUIT, Auckland 2013); Bangkok Experimental Film Festival 2012: Raiding the Archives; Lav Diaz retrospective (with Filmvirus, Bangkok 2009).

May co-directs the CREAM Doctoral Programme and supervises practice and written PhD projects. She regularly serves as examiner for both written and practice PhDs.

Please feel free to email May for an informal discussion about your PhD project ideas on moving image art, the curatorial, contemporary art and Southeast Asia, theatrical and non-theatrical modes of moving image exhibition, and Asian cinema, or if your research and practice areas reverberate with her research interests and expertise as indicated in the biography section.

May is part of the teaching team for the MA in Film and TV which has a number of specialised options, including film programming and moving image curation, and Asian cinema. 

May is writing a book provisionally titled Animistic Cinema: Moving Image Performance and Ritual in Thailand. Animism has figured in western classical film theory as a metaphor for the magic of moving things on screen. Rather than theorising cinema’s ontology from within that tradition, her book addresses a marginal yet fertile historical ground for thinking about movement, mediality and embodied spectatorship. Drawing on a wide range of cultural artefacts and artistic references, oral history and archival research, it reconstructs mid-twentieth century practices of itinerant film projection performances in rural Siam/Thailand as the context from which to theorise cinema’s animistic grounding. 

In this period and location, images moved within a network of circulation, transmission and spectatorship shaped by an unusual combination of geopolitical, market and cultural forces. Mobile cinema took shape and achieved a degree of stability in Siam/Thailand during the Cold War period due to the unprecedented proliferation and affordability of small gauge camera and mobile projection equipment in the country, along with the US-funded expansion of transportation and communications infrastructure for war purposes in neighbouring Indochina. Such extrinsic factors enmeshed with local ritual traditions of audio-visual performance, and as a consequence create an animistic cinema dispositif. Film reels, projectors and sound tools were reconfigured as non-standard assemblage to suit mobile display contexts, and moving images tended to be experienced and conceptualised as live performance rather than as reproducible spectacle. The main way in which corporeal spectators in non-urban margins in Siam/Thailand during the Cold War era experienced cinema was within ritual space-time during which films were projected in itinerant settings, often on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, during events whose purpose was to seek permission from, placate or fulfil a transaction with another, non-corporeal kind of spectators – guardian spirits. During these projection performances the fictional/filmic world interfaced with the spiritual/profane locality via the figure of the versionist, a voice performer who functioned in a similar manner to the barker of early cinema. 

May’s book uses this historical scene, with its complex refracted interplay of presence, potency and embodied film experience, to extend film theory’s phenomenological and physiological understanding of cinematic movement, and of cinema’s role in connecting the human and non-human, incarnating life and making reality. It demonstrates a novel mode of in-depth engagement with contemporary Thai moving image art, as well as those of Southeast Asia, by establishing a montage of reverberations between the ontological and aesthetic grounding of the Cold War’s mobile animistic cinema and the moving image art of the contemporary period. 

For other research and curatorial projects see the ‘About’ section. 

May is the recipient of a number of research grants including: 

Strategic Research Fund, University of Westminster: Long Films in the Gallery: An Exhibition and Symposium on the Films of Lav Diaz (2017); Moving Image Collectivisation and Southern Alignments (2016)

British Academy International Partnership and Mobility Scheme: Comparing Experimental Cinemas (2014-2015)

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship (2009-2012): Cinema Experience in Cold War Siam

Asia-Europe Foundation Cultural Partnership Initiative: The 6th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival: Raiding the Archives (2010-2011)

2015

Long Walk to Life: the Films of Lav Diaz (2015)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2015. Long Walk to Life: the Films of Lav Diaz . Afterall . 40.

2012

Mother India in six voices: melodrama, voice performance, and Indian films in Siam (2012)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2012. Mother India in six voices: melodrama, voice performance, and Indian films in Siam. Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies. 3 (2), pp. 99-121.

2007

Nang Nak: Thai bourgeois heritage cinema (2007)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2007. Nang Nak: Thai bourgeois heritage cinema. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. 8 (2), pp. 180-193.

2006

Un-Thai sakon: the scandal of teen cinema (2006)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2006. Un-Thai sakon: the scandal of teen cinema. South East Asia Research. 14 (2), pp. 147-177.
Blissfully whose? Jungle pleasures, ultra-modernist cinema and the cosmopolitan Thai auteur (2006)
Ingawanij, M.A. and MacDonald, R.L. 2006. Blissfully whose? Jungle pleasures, ultra-modernist cinema and the cosmopolitan Thai auteur. New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film. 4 (1), pp. 37-54.

2004

The value of an impoverished aesthetic: the iron ladies and its audiences (2004)
Ingawanij, M.A. and MacDonald, R.L. 2004. The value of an impoverished aesthetic: the iron ladies and its audiences. Spectator: University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism. 24 (2), pp. 73-81.

2013

Animism and the performative realist cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2013)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2013. Animism and the performative realist cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. in: Pick, A. and Narraway, G. (ed.) Screening nature: cinema beyond the human Oxford Berghahn Books.

2010

Blissfully whose? Jungle pleasures, ultra-modernist cinema and the cosmopolitan Thai auteur (2010)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2010. Blissfully whose? Jungle pleasures, ultra-modernist cinema and the cosmopolitan Thai auteur. in: Harrison, R.V. and Jackson, P.A. (ed.) The ambiguous allure of the West: traces of the colonial in Thailand Hing Kong Hong Kong University Press. pp. 119-134

2006

Transistor and temporality: the rural as modern Thai cinema's pastoral (2006)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2006. Transistor and temporality: the rural as modern Thai cinema's pastoral. in: Fowler, C. and Helfield, G. (ed.) Representing the rural : space, place, and identity in films about the land Detroit Wayne State University Press. pp. 80-100

2012

Glimpses of freedom: independent cinema in Southeast Asia (2012)
Ingawanij, M.A. and McKay, B. (ed.) 2012. Glimpses of freedom: independent cinema in Southeast Asia. Ithaca, NY Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications.

2007

Hyperbolic heritage: bourgeois spectatorship and contemporary Thai cinema (2007)
Ingawanij, M.A. 2007. Hyperbolic heritage: bourgeois spectatorship and contemporary Thai cinema. PhD thesis University of London London Consortium

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