Kamin Lertchaiprasert responds to written questions from the Guggenheim about his practice, motivation, and creative life.
What are you inspired by?
I am inspired by doubt around the meaning of life. This has led me to study philosophy, religion, science, art, and culture through reading, art practice and Vipassana Meditation.
How would you define yourself as an artist? What does your current practice involve?
I consider life to be an energy form. I think everybody has creative energy; just because artists are professionally creative doesn’t necessarily mean they have any more creative energy than anyone else.
I consider my current practice “life-specific.” This means I focus on searching for the meaning of life and trying to understand the truth of nature from my own experience by using art and culture as methods, in much the same way that scientists use mathematics as a method to search the truth of nature.
You’ve been involved with founding some interesting organizations, such as the land project, which became a public experimental space located in a rice field, and, more recently, the 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit. Tell us more about how you conceived of the museum?
In working with the land project, I found that the macro-utopian ideal had its limitations, but the 31st Century Museum is a micro-utopian idea but both projects balance learning with life and social construction.
If you could change something about your world, through your art or otherwise, what would it be?
I really don't want to change the world in physical way. First of all, I would like to understand the world as the way it is. Then I would like to share my ideas and understanding with other people. If we were all to see the world as it is, we would see that, for example, everything is impermanent, and that suffering ensues whenever we have “self-attachment” or become concerned consciously and unconsciously about ourselves, but without true awareness. Everything is emptiness, but emptiness doesn't mean nothingness, it means non-being by itself. We come from nothing and we will go to nothing, so how can we live together? What is the meaning of life in the present, and how might understanding it help to reduce all kinds of problems?
What are the qualities you feel are essential to true innovation?
The essence of art and life is to understand that they are one. At the same time, the objective and subjective become one; they cannot be separated. Positive and negative energy are also one. True innovation is in the transformation of negative energy into positive energy. For example, greed, anger, and illusion—negative energies—are all innate to all of us as, in the same way, love and mercy—positive energies—are. When you love or show mercy to someone or something, you cannot do so truly if you still have negative energy, because it still wants something in return. We must transform that negative energy into positive energy. Then we will be free from self-attachment.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity has much more meaning than instinct. It is beyond self-attachment. It can also called “awareness.”
The Western concept of creativity is based on the Christian idea that everything was created from nothing by God. From this idea, it was extrapolated that humans came from the creation of God, not from evolution. So it can be said that the Western concept of creation is about uniqueness and originality, while the Eastern concept is based on the Buddhist idea that creativity means that everything is relative and governed by a law of consequences; nothing can be separated from anything else. Creation is not focused on uniqueness and originality. This is a holistic idea.
Awareness means a state free from self-attachment and concerned instead with perceiving everything with the body and the mind at the same time, the subjective and the objective thus becoming one. Creativity is the state of creation for the whole of nature.
What are the art methodologies and traditions you’d most like to see continue? Or preserved?
Everything is not equal, no better or worse than anything else. They are all unique. It has been created by its space and time.
What do you see as your key challenge?
In 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit project, I try to transform negative energy to positive energy by encouraging people to have self-awareness. This means they will have self-respect, see creativity’s value in themselves, and appreciate the human values that we are all the same and we are all unique.
The 31st Century Museum has been asking, “If you had a wish to make this world better, what would you like to share?” What has been one of the most memorable responses to this question?
We are all the same.
What is your next project?
I am trying to understand the present moment and live with it, to be free from self-attachment.
In your video contribution What is Art?, you spoke about how art is within all of us. What led you to become an artist?
If we think of art as creative activity, that means everyone is creative somehow, so we can call everyone an artist. But if we think art is not only creative activity but also a career, this means that artists are only people who make a living from what they do. Actually, I never considered myself any different from anyone else. Why did people start calling me an artist? Maybe because they didn’t consider themselves creative.
What leads people to become creative? Because the purpose of the activity is beyond self-attachment and gives them the freedom to express themselves and learn to understand life and nature, overcoming their limited knowledge through true wisdom.