July 6, 2016

Here at the Art Department we are exploring how artistic approaches to predictions of the future have shaped our present, under the theme of ‘Prophecies‘. This week, we bring you Bangkok-based artist Chulayarnnon Siriphol who wants to know what messages and materials can we leave today for the people of the future?

By setting up his own contemporary version of pagodas throughout Asia – both places of worship and containers of sacred items – he plans for his pyramid-like structures to serve as kind of letterboxes for locals to store their own precious objects as messages for future generations.

Find out how he connected the pyramid with the pagoda in his research and drawings of this developing project:


According to Buddhist belief, the Buddhist cosmology – adapted from Hindu cosmology – is described as consisting of Tribhumi (three worlds) with Khao Phra Sumen (Sumeru Mountain) located in the centre of the universe. Above the mountain is the habitat of Brahma, the creator of the universe. The angels reside below him on the mountain, and the four points surrounding the mountain belong to human beings. Underneath the mountain is hell.


Tribhumi manuscript: Thonburi period 1776 A.D.
for The Royal Crest Commemorating the Sixth-Cycle (72nd) Birthday Anniversary Of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on 5 December 1999, Bangkok: Fine Arts Department, 1999

The influence of the ‘three worlds’ can be found throughout Thai architecture where many buildings imitate the form of Sumeru Mountain, especially pagodas, palaces, temples or spirit houses, which are small shrines intended to provide shelter for spirits. By echoing the cosmological structure, the buildings appear to bring the sacred mountain in heaven down from the skies to the human world, or conversely give the feeling that our earthly world can at any moment transcend into the heavens. 


Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Bangkok, Thailand

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Typical Spirit House as found throughout Thailand


The influence of Buddhist and Hindu cosmology is not only seen in the pagodas, palaces and temples of Thailand but also in other countries. There are many pagodas across Asia that follow this form, for example:

Pagodas(clockwise from top left)
Jetavanaramaya Stupa, Sri Lanka
Phra Pathommachedi, Thailand
Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayanta), China
Pha That Luang, Laos
Mireuksa, South Korea
Goju-no-to Pagoda, Japan
Sanchi Stupa, India

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Chulayarnnon Siriphol Sketch of Pagodas in Asia in order of height, 2016


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Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Mapping of Pagodas in South, South East and East Asia 
(original source: Asia, Giovanni Iacomo Rossi 1687)

Notice that the main characteristics of these architectural works in these countries is the same basic triangular structure, with a spiked top and large base, echoing a pyramid-like structure.

Chulayarnnon Siriphol Myth of Modernity (still) 2014, Video, colour, sound, 16:00 min

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Chulayarnnon Siriphol Sketch for exhibition installation, 2016

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Chulayarnnon Siriphol Basic structure of Buddhist cosmology (view from above) 2016

Important objects have been stored inside these structures, for example, the ashes of kings, Lord Buddha’s bones or sacred Buddha statues. These architectural works and antiques are what we can learn from the past.

So, I have questions for the future…
How can people in the future learn from the history of the past?
What can we leave for people in the future?
And… in the future, is it possible for contemporary art to be part of civilisation?

I want to attempt to answer these questions by building contemporary pagodas following a pyramid-like structure and set up workshops with local people in many countries in Asia. I will collect important objects and interview the local people in each country that would be in-between personal and social memory. I hope their memories will turn to history in the far future.

Stay tuned for updates on how this project progresses at http://www.chulayarnnon.com/

Video stills for upcoming work:



Chulayarnnon Siriphol was born in Bangkok in 1986 where he currently lives and works. He works in short film, experimental film, documentary and video installation which are in-between personal memory and social memory, documentary and fiction, reality and the supernatural. He has won many short film awards. His works have been screened in many film festivals and exhibitions in Asia and Europe, including in The 34th International Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands (2005), the 26th Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Germany (2010), Can You Hear Me?, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore (2012), Sharjah Biennial 11, United Arab Emirates (2013), the 4th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow, Russia (2014), The 5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Fukuoka, Japan (2014)

This article is part of the Prophecies theme by the Art Department. For the next quarter we will be publishing articles by researchers, writers and artists that explore the relations between art and predictions of the future. Chulayarnnon Siriphol is one of the selected proposals from the Open Call for Prophecies.

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