‘HYSTERIA’, the so-called nervous condition, derives from the Greek root hystera for ‘uterus’, and was originally thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the womb. The term has a controversial history as it was formerly regarded as a disease specific to women. The proposed title for this exhibition reflects a highly limiting perception of women who do not apparently conform to a feminine image presented by mainstream media and prescribed by society. In modern language ‘hysterical’ also describes something hilarious, or uncontrollable behavior.
Through various mediums the 8 selected artists explore not only themes of deep-rooted gender archetypes, but also humorously dismantle Thai social taboos. With a playful and immersive feel, this exhibition proposes to shed light on the originality and freedom of these Thai women’s practice pushing away the stigmatized, more clichéd image of modern Thai women.
I have often questioned myself, as both a non-Thai and a woman, of the positioning of Thai women in their society. There seems to be a large delusive gap between two extreme definitions
, that of the ‘kulasatrii’ (virtuous woman) promoted in conservative circles, folk tales, local propaganda such as soap operas and movies, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the ‘sexy girl’ splashed all over the internet and the media, who attracts millions of sex tourists each year. But whether a woman adopts either one of these extremes, both are to the privilege of men. Even though the younger female generation is more empowered, more liberated, certain social norms are ingrained in the minds of men and women and these norms are difficult to erase.
The 8 selected artists for “Hysteria” highly contribute, in my opinion, in pushing away these standards which have become a prison rather than a solid base for the younger generation to freely evolve as Humans rather than being confined to a preconceived role determined by their sex. The various actions, slogans for gender equality and women’s rights which arose during the recent Thai political protests are a testimony that equality is yet to be achieved even within the younger generation.