Dr May Adadol Ingawanij
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May Adadol Ingawanij is a moving image theorist, teacher and curator. She co-directs the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM).
May is writing a book on animism, moving image performances, and contemporary art in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Recent and upcoming English-language publications include 'Exhibiting Lav Diaz's Long Films: Currencies of Circulation and Dialectics of Spectatorship' (2017), ‘Long Walk to Life: the Films of Lav Diaz’ (2015); 'Animism and the Performative Realist Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul' (2013); Glimpses of Freedom: Independent Cinema in Southeast Asia (2012); 'Mother India in Six Voices: Melodrama, Voice Performance and Indian Films in Siam' (2012); ‘Nguyen Trinh Thi’s Essay Films,’ (forthcoming); 'Image Mobility, Artistic Dispositif and Animistic Cinema' (forthcoming); 'The Essay Film as Feminist Cinema in Southeast Asia: Nguyen Trinh Thi and Anocha Suwichakornpong' (in progress); 'Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's Moving Image Works as Animistic Cinema' (in progress).
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 curatorial projects include Lav Diaz: Journeys (London, 2017); Southern Collectives (with the Experimenta Cinema in Asia Network, Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento, Buenos Aires, 2016); On 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 has been co-director of the CREAM Doctoral Programme and course leader for the MA Film and Television. She supervises practice and written PhD projects and 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)