Ghosts Can Cross Oceans^

Ciara Ennis
April 2015

Foregrounding the entropic as a space for renewal, Ghosts Can Cross Oceans celebrates disarticulation and recombination as a necessary act in the process of becoming, where movement and reinvention are ongoing. Bringing some order to this disruptive schema is the critical role of ritual, which in relation to this project gives substance to the felling of a jade orchid tree that once grew in Nuttaphol Ma's parents’ garden. Functionig as a mnemonic trigger, Ghosts Can Cross Oceans references his father’s daily ritual of collecting the tree's blossoming dawg jam bee flowers to make offerings to the family altar. Loosely translated from Thai as 'flower remember year,' both the memory of the blossom and its evocative odor have been symbolically grafted onto a thriving colony of lemongrass plants.

Comprising the central focus of the work, these lemongrass flora have taken root in multiple planters that have been repurposed from a previous work dedicated to Ma’s grandfather’s ancestral home. Arranged in rectangular formation, the enclosed space, activated by the olfactory notes, invites intense reverie and contemplation while simultaneously reviving and precipitating generations of familial bonds both past and present. Although functioning as an intimate site where inter-subjective exchanges and experiences can take place, Ghosts Can Cross Oceans also exists as a politicized site where themes of forced migration, cultural dislocation, and hybrid identities come to the fore.

Ma’s practice complicates easy definitions of belonging by elaborating an extended notion of home where one’s psycho-geographic markers manifest as an eternal “line of flight.”  This fluid and open-ended structure is at the core of all Ma’s work, which celebrates nomadic and shape-shifting identitites as future-oriented guides necessary for navigating the unfamiliar and interstitial.  Although precarious in nature, such positions of uncertainty provide possible sites for radical re-articulations and revised definitions of who and what wer are, and what it is to belong.  It is in this direction that Ghosts Can Cross Oceans gestures towards.