Challenging, immersive, moving, and the kind of experience that's just too rare in Bangkok, Dujdao Vadhanapakorn's Blissfully Blind is currently showing at Bangkok CityCity Gallery through Jul 30. The collaborative project by the Thai dance and movement therapist and lighting designer Mont Watanasirirochn (Zieght) explores Thais' eagerness for change through Vadhanapakorn’s observations over the last three years of social and political unrest.
Dujdao, who has been a key member of the B-floor Theatre collective for the last 16 years, is known for pushing boundaries and raising social awareness through performance art. "There’s more than one way to produce a captivating and entertaining piece that isn’t based on romantic notions or fantasies," she explains. Aside from her acting, which includes a cameo in Only God Forgives starring Ryan Gosling, Dujdao also works as a dance psychotherapist helping patients express emotions through dance movements. We met up with her on Blissfully Blind's debut night (Jul 13) to talk about the initial spark and concept behind the piece.  
Image by B-Floor
Photo: Teeraphan Ngowjeenan

What was the inspiration for the performance?

As I have a background in psychology, I subconsciously analyze human behaviors, like why news is presented in a certain way, because the different mannerisms and characteristics of people intrigue me. The piece was born out of observations that I’ve made over the last couple of years, questioning why we choose to ignore certain truths or incidents, especially regarding political incidents. I found that people think differently and choose to ignore different things, especially things they strongly disagree with or anything that make them feel vulnerable to the world. They choose to turn a blind eye to it. For example, if someone who’s against military rule meets someone else who’s for it, both sides will utterly ignore each other's opinion. It makes me wonder why we can’t listen to alternative perspectives on things. It's not only politics; this also applies to topics like relationships and the issue of domestic violence—being stuck in this vicious cycle of violence because you’ve convinced yourself that your partner still loves you despite how hard they’ve hit you; constantly lying to yourself that they still care. We choose to believe in things that makes us feel secure.

What message are you trying to convey?

In short, that our current political situation, with endless debates where no one agrees on anything—that's blindness. After researching, I found one of the reasons people choose to withdraw from information is as a mode of self-defense because knowing too much can be fatal. That in turn generates a feeling of insecurity and stops new ideas from being passed on. So, people carry on living as usual even though there’s a bombing here or guns being shot there. People go on oblivious to that. I have a monthly income, I can afford to travel anywhere and keep thinking that my life is safe. But in reality, it’s not! If you are willing to be more aware of your surroundings, you realize that the truth often hurts but at least you know whether you're in danger or not. 

Why did you choose the term "experiential" performance?

Because the audience's experience of watching is a piece of work in itself—not just the physical elements like the light installation, actors or sound.

What’s the meaning behind the use of lighting?

Light enables us to see, so I’ve used lighting as a guide that leads us out of the dark, but sometimes we’re still blinded by the light.

Would you say that overlooking the truth is the same as being blind?

Overlooking something means you still don’t understand or can't fully grasp the concept, but when you're blind you don’t understand it at all. For me, being blind isn’t such a bad thing. Everyone has a blind spot. To be a part of the big picture in society you have to compromise and look at things from others' perspectives. You don't need to alter your own beliefs to try to understand others. 

What would you prefer to be: blissfully blind or painfully aware?

I’d rather choose to be painfully aware because I’m not afraid anymore—it feels like we don't need to be. I want to be more aware of my surroundings.

Blissfully Blind runs until July 30. Performances start at 7:30pm (except Tue and Wed). Tickets are available on their event page for (B700). Bangkok CityCity Gallery, 13/3 Sathorn Soi 1, 083-087-2725. MRT Lumpini