Drawing on his Australian-Thai heritage, Nathan Beard deconstructs characterisations of ‘Thainess’ to consider the role of authenticity and the complex influences of culture, memory and biography on the shaping and structuring of identity. In a practice that spans photography, video, sculpture and installation, Beard often incorporates selections from his own family archive, considering ideas of ‘home’ as experienced and expressed by his late mother, who immigrated to Australia from Nakhon Nayok in 1978. Beard places these personal reflections alongside broader cultural signifiers, such as Buddhist icons and ornaments, and the familiar Thai gesture of wai. Focusing on elements that may be considered ‘exotic’ or kitsch from one perspective, and mundane and everyday from another, Beard presents personal, playful reflections on the complexities surrounding the construction of diasporic identity.
Beard’s project for PICA is influenced by the artist’s research into Thai artefacts, imagery and orchids from archives of The British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Film Institute and Kew Gardens. Motivated by an interest in the role and legacy of colonial archives in historically informing and shaping Western visions of Thainess, in this new body of work Beard continues his enquiry into the production of hierarchies and signifiers of taste across cultures and time, focusing our attention on the plasticity of cultural forms, experiences and expressions.