Artist Wuttin Chansataboot, 35, was the only Asian winner at this year’s Celeste Prize in Milan, an annual international contemporary art prize, for his multimedia project “The Metamorphosis of Self and Identity in Digital Era.” Here, he shares with us how a viral video sparked the philosophical concept behind his work.

What sparked your interest in the arts?

Since I was a child, I have been interested in science, technology and art. While other children were outside playing, I spent my time reading manga and science books, or doodling on the back of my mom’s used test papers. I have always had visions of weird shapes, forms and images in my head. During high school, the works of surrealist artists like Salvador Dali had a crucial influence on me.

Your winning project explores the way social media is taking over real-life social interaction; what ignited this idea? 

Honestly, I’d like to credit “Nong Lha Nheaw Kai” as a huge inspiration. When her video clip went viral, I found it quite funny that everyone approached her and treated her like a superstar. Even the governor of Trang paid her a visit. It occurred to me how this reflects a new weird standard of social value we have these days, and it reminded me of artist Andy Warhol’s statement that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. I began to think about how, these days the number of "likes", "shares", "retweets" and comments have a strong impact on the way people present themselves on social media. 

Can we assume that you stray away from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the likes?

It's actually quite ironic because I'm one of those social network users that my project criticizes. I use it nearly every day, like most people. I do think these sites are powerful informational tools—we just need to use them with proper discernment.

Some of your pieces, like “Perpetual Pilgrimage” and “16x9 Capsule”, have links to Buddhism. Is religion another strong inspiration?

I'm far from what you would call a religious person. However, religion is a significant tool that I extract many ideas from. "16X9 Capsule" was made not long after I left a one-month-monkhood in my hometown, Nakhon Si Thammarat. So it's possible that I subconsciously linked what I'd learned in the temple to my artwork. “Perpetual Pilgrimage” was made two years later, with the idea coming from a combination of Western philosophies like John Locke's and Jacques Lacan's, and Buddhist concepts. It was my attempt to bridge the gap between these ways of thinking.

What’s the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome during the making of this project?

My main concern was the transportation of the works, as it costs a lot to ship all my bulky artworks to Italy. I approached some organizations to see if I could get financial support but it didn't work out, so I ended up using my own savings. Installing the works was difficult too, as some like "The Formation of Shell" require a precise set-up that's hard to do alone. I was lucky enough to meet some nice Thais in Milan as well as Celeste staff to help me.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

During the Celeste Prize exhibition, I received a message from ARTROOMS 2016 inviting me to showcase my works in London in January, 2016. Also, in December, "16x9 Capsule" will be screened at Alternative Film/Video Festival 2015 as part of the International Competition Programme in Belgrade, Serbia. Aside from that, I'm also working on an interactive video installation which will convey the idea of the metamorphosis of self and identity in virtual reality via interactions between physical objects, audiences and video images. 

Check out more of Wuttin Chansataboot's work at