Maria Dragoi in conversation with Pyae Phyo Thant Nyo and Krone, digitally
Time of Publication: 12:33 - 3/4/22
“Electric Ruby, I miss you. We shall gather in this space with harmony and we will reunite in peace just you and me”
‘Electric Ruby’ takes the form of an uncommon, isolated landscape using electronic and raw materials to capture the connection between time, memory, mankind, nature, and technology. The installation consists of three different units; “RAM”, “PROCESSOR”, and “ECLIPSE”, all working together to generate electric rubies. First, "RAM", a short-term memory storage unit formed by using the leftover materials from the total assembly of each unit of this installation. It is the total evaluation of an excess unit of memories that are being captured during the process of compression. This allows "THE PROCESSOR" to work and gives off energy to form electric rubies in this landscape. Lastly, the disused elements from this ecosystem were consolidated to display into "ECLIPSE"."
Bringing all three units into a conversation with one another, this exhibition aims to question the relationship between each construction; power struggles among our society, and how these powers collide within the ecosystem."
I visited Electric Ruby through the wire. Speaking with Phyo, I got the sense that the exhibition was a way to explore how, and through what, collective memory is created. The exhibition came together in a warehouse in Bangkok. For the past six months, Phyo and his friend Krone have been collecting scrap materials from the local area (within a 2 mile radius to be precise) - and choreographing them into elegant systems. There are 3 main pieces: RAM, PROCESSOR, and ECLIPSE.
RAM is a memory bank, a tower of stones, plants, scrap metal, and a painting which was left outside for several months. They cradle around a centre like a burning ember. The whole thing is covered in spiderwebs, markers of the time it has taken for the piece to grow. Phyo tells me how they’re thinking of bringing in some bugs and lizards too, seeing if they can build a pseudo-ecosystem. Their process of arranging the works is like painting, or playing painting he says, because the scrap brings in its own shapes, and they slowly layer its forms like a reverse excavation.
Phyo asks me if I have ever seen a gaming set up, with the red glow - RAM is a sort of computer, a material memory bank of detritus, assembled piece by piece. It makes me think about agencies - and also what counts as a Computer.
“computer. / (kəmˈpjuːtə) / noun. a device, usually electronic, that processes data according to a set of instructions.”
Objects as well as systems can be seen as data processing devices that engage with a set of cultural instructions - they, like computers, can be misused and corrupted. Phyo tells me they’re planning to make NFTs of the waste materials to sell them as digital remnants of the exhibition, a reminder of its temporality.
I ask Phyo about the choice to build white gallery walls in the warehouse, making it like a set of a gallery rather than a gallery actual. He tells me they did it to frame the work. The space must feel completely surreal, a massive warehouse with 4 fake walls encasing 3 glowing gems of garbage, it’s something out of a fever dream.
The second work, PROCESSOR, takes up a whole ‘room’. It’s a reaction to the massive landslides in Northern Burma and South East Asia in general. Excavation has caused the land to erode and fall away, unable to hold itself together. The piece is primarily built of landslide debris and held together by cement. Like a forest, PROCESSOR rises out of the floor in clumps, each patch wired back to an electronic mother wrapped in what looks like cellophane. Red LED lights are embedded on each island, and Phyo tells me how he wants the piece to keep growing, to the up the whole room like a cyber woodland.
I ask Phyo if he thinks he could ever show this work in London, whether there would be a point - He says it’s impossible, they’d have to do something else with the local materials there. He tells me they’ve thought about 3D scanning it, and even that would modify the piece, help its continuous growth through the acquisition of bits of waste data. The only way for the exhibition to be relocated is by digitising it, then printing it, and then carrying on with the physical in the new location - creating a weird system mirror chamber. There’s something curious about conservation (in both the ecological and artistic sense) that Phyo and Krone’s project plays with.
The final piece is ECLIPSE, a conical pile of metal scraps encased in a glass chamber. Within the interstices of the burnt metal, crystals are forming - they’ve not been induced by a chemical reaction, but have started growing accidentally, neither Phyo nor Krone know why. It feels like something living, but the materials are dead - it’s post mortem growth. Creating these systems has been a six month long endeavour, but Phyo tells me it’s only the beginning. In London I knew him as a painter - I ask whether this process has changed his practice.
“I always wanted to do this, I just didn’t have the space in London. I’m still figuring out what this is - it’s not art, I don’t even know how to give it a name.”
He is still painting, outside the false gallery a series of 20 or so massive sheets lay on the warehouse floor, splattered green - they are supposed to represent the extraction of all the work as a ‘digital’ file. Phyo says he’s not really sure what to do with them, so he’s just left them to age.
Walking around the warehouse, I find out they’re planning to host some musicians from South East Asian collectives, giving them a space to perform away from any sort of institution. Phyo and Krone want Electric Ruby to be a space without restrictions, of radical exploration where anything can happen. Stealing bits of the outside world and re-defining them turns the warehouse into an incubator, a venue for collective growth. If you’re in Bangkok, you can visit them until the 30th of April.
You can see more of Phyo and Krone's work online:
More images of the work/space: