05 May 2024

Country Home Sheriff

Oat Montien’s exhibition Country Home Sheriff opened at JWD Art Space in Bangkok on 2nd May, and runs until 14th July. Country Home Sheriff both celebrates and questions the cowboy as a male role model in Thai culture, examining its influence on both gay and straight ideas of masculinity.

For Oat, this subject is deeply personal, as his late father styled himself as a cowboy, and was the landlord of the Country Home pub, from which the exhibition takes its name. When his father died, Oat inherited his cowboy accoutrements, which he wears in videos shot for the exhibition. This raises Freudian issues, hinted at in the triptych video installation The Exquisite Fall (อัสดง), which is the exhibition’s centrepiece.

In another video—Oasis (โอเอซิส), from his Desert Lasso series (บ่วงบาศก์ทะเลทราย)—Oat stars as a gay cowboy having a tryst with his lover in the middle of the desert. Oat is one of a select few Thai artists to have produced such explicit videos, the others being Vichai Imsuksom (The Secret Room), Ohm Phanphiroj (The Meaning of It All), and Thunska Pansittivorakul (Avalon/แดนศักดิ์สิทธิ์).

What these works of queer video art have in common, apart from their transgressive content, is their participatory nature: in each case, the artist appears on camera to perform with their partner. Oat’s appearance is more performative, as he is playing a character (the cowboy), though it’s also more multi-layered, as he is representing his late father, and both personifying and subverting an archetype of masculine identity.