Spirit House Open House: A Very​ Thai Exhibition

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Spirit House Open House: A Very​ Thai Exhibition That Questions the Ownership of Space

This year’s Bangkok Design Week festival saw the People of Ari, a creative group from the Ari District, bringing a fresh perspective to the familiar ‘spirit house.’ They invited Mr. Saratta “Kaen” Chuengsatiansup, the artist behind the “Uninspired by Current Events” page known for sharp 3D art satirizing the sociopolitical climate, to join as a designer. Together, they crafted a giant replica of a spirit house in the old home of former Prime Minister General Chatichai Choonhavan, with the AT Theatre group providing a special performance to transport the audience to another dimension.


Ms. Thunyaporn ‘Piano’ Rakthao, a curator from People of Ari, shared the project’s inception, saying, “People of Ari evolved from Yellow Lane as a theater and creative space to share in the Ari District. We’re always looking for artists from various fields, with an appreciation for works with subtle, sophisticated political satire. That’s why we reached out to Mr. Kaen to see if he was interested in collaborating.”

Gathering Ideas for Building the Spirit House

What followed was a discussion and exchange of ideas, during which Mr. Kaen showed interest in the location’s background and how Ari was once known as a neighborhood for nobility and the elite, before becoming the chic area it is today.


“Ari has essentially undergone gentrification, attracting a lot of expatriates. We thought the story of the spirit house would be fitting, as it is a rather ubiquitous sight while also being deeply expressive of Thai culture in the eyes of many expats. However, some may not understand its purpose, so we wanted to offer an experience that’s perhaps beyond what most are familiar with in this country. In a way, we are also working with places where the older generation still maintain long-standing traditions, so it’s as though we’re working with spirit houses themselves.

“The discussions touched on many topics, such as how we would tell the story of the spirit house, how much we would satirize, and how deeply we would delve into discussing matters related to the ruling class. Ultimately, the art piece presented the perspective of spirit houses in a way that felt natural, such as by showing how offerings decay and deteriorate over time. We wanted to observe this reality without seeming as though we were mocking the tradition, believing it would allow for a more engaging conversation.


“Some ideas also carried over from last year’s Bangkok Design Week, when we visited Yellow Lane and witnessed ‘The Forbidden Marsh’ that invited people to wade through water. We wanted to have an exhibition that similarly utilized space in an effective manner, culminating in the immersive Spirit House where visitors could interact and make offerings for blessings. At the same time, we still wanted the piece to resemble the sort of work we usually post on our social media space.”

For this project, Ms. Sorrawan “Looktan” Bunyapuggana was brought on as producer to bring the concept sketches to life as tangible components within the Spirit House.

“We first followed the design she provided, then saw what could be done and to what extent. Some items could already be feasibly crafted on a small scale, but for larger versions we’d need to use certain materials to maintain their shape and structure. We would then need to select textures with the team to see if the paper could make the items look real, ensuring they would be durable enough for people to handle without easily damaging them. Flowers would be crafted using kite paper and frosted paper.”

Ms. Piano noted that, in addition to presenting realistic beauty, another important consideration for the team was striking the right balance between meeting the design objectives and addressing environmental concerns. For example, foam is very cheap but difficult to recycle, so it was necessary to switch to other materials.

Creating Engagement to Question ‘Ownership of Space’

More than an exhibition, the Spirit House serves a valuable purpose as the setting for interactive performances under the same concept but telling stories with greater depth. Additionally, during the main event of the People of Ari festival, musical performances and swing dancing activities were also held against the backdrop of the Spirit House.

Mr. Pawarisorn “August” Kitwanitrungrueang, a member of the creative team, said, “The main challenge was creating a performance which would allow the audience to interact with the Spirit House. We had actors and viewers take on roles of common offerings, such as sculptures of chickens, zebras, and traditional dancers, with the actors representing old offerings and potentially becoming the next spirits of the house or space. The viewers, on the other hand, represented newly arrived offerings. The act primarily reflected the theme of space ownership.”


Concerning musical performances and other activities, Panmas “Meing” Tongpan, a curator from People of Ari, noted that: “People of Ari regularly organizes musical events, and so during the exhibition, we would try to curate themes or select activities that would complement the storytelling. For example, Jazz Night at the Spirit House featured jazz music that matched the vibe of the exhibition. Our other events followed a similar approach. Together with the exhibition as the main event, we wanted to utilize the setting in a meaningful way and add layers of significance to the performances held in the same space. We presented ourselves as a theater to properly accommodate the versatile purposes of the space.”

For more information please visit

Bangkok Design Week 2024

Livable Scape

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27 Jan – 4 Feb 2024