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Just Back: Two Artists Talk Thailand

VITALY KOMAR: Now that logging is forbidden in Thailand, many elephants are out of work. We're opening art academies in Lampang, Ayutthaya, and Surin to teach them to paint, so they can support themselves by selling pictures. Elephants are much better than human abstract artists; they're innocent and not corrupted by the art market. The best ones can concentrate all their intellectual power and aesthetic preferences on a single piece. It can get hot waiting for them to finish. Luckily, the villages have shaded rest areas -- sort of tables with little roofs -- that you can lie on to get out of the sun. They're made of teak, which gets polished by people's clothes. There's no analogy in European furniture.

ALEX MELAMID: Bangkok, even though it's polluted, is the epitome of the city -- the city as it can be. It's like New York but 10 times more intense -- 10 times better. I believe the future of humankind is here. Wherever you go in Thailand, you wonder what will happen to the country in 10, 20 years. When you go to Europe, you never think about the future. And I love the architecture here. It's so bizarre. They build with no idea of good taste or what's proper. It's much healthier in a way: good taste kills everything. Everyone is supposed to have good taste -- thank God they don't.

--Interviewed by Jennifer Gampell

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