BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK AT THE BLACK HOUSE (BAAN DAM)

Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam Baan Dam
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Baan Dam (The Black House)

Baan Dam

Often wrongly termed a temple, due to the creator’s “reinventions” of aspects of Buddhist architecture, this imposing structure is only the first of many in the large, tree-studded Nang Lae compound of national artist Thawan Duchanee. This is the largest structure completed so far, and with its red tiled roof, natural wood, and gold ornamentation, it serves as a gentle introduction to the surprises beyond. In fact, the deep bas reliefs on the enormous timber doors, the teak pillars, and varied artwork displayed inside are so relatively traditional that the visitor may be lulled into a false sense of the conventional.

The first image to shake one out of such complacency waits just outside the back door: a small, all-black building, the door of which is thrown open to show off an immaculate, all-white toilet. In full working order, of course. Next, visitors encounter an enormous collection of animal skulls and horns, mainly deer, along with animal-skin rugs, an enormous collection of sea shells of all shapes and sizes, and cabinets crammed with arrows, knives, daggers, spears, and swords. All housed in a black building, of course.

By now, a yearning for more conventional images may have overcome many visitors, and respite seems to be promised in the form of three white hemispheres, each accessed by a single tall, black, steel door. The first is the largest (the door of over 6 meters high needs a strong man using both hands to open and close), but inside are simply more animal skins and skulls, a little light relief provided by another conch collection, and an all-pervading mustiness.

The second of these white igloos has a similar theme, to which is added a smattering of wooden statues, most of well endowed males. The third, and smallest, features a skylight and a large chair with metal décor, echoing the animal horns. The brightness from above, and more conches surrounding the walls, give this the lightest atmosphere of the three, but visitors may not enter here, as a member of the Royal family has used it for meditation. Behind and apart from the other buildings, is a structure resembling a large, black whale. This is also off limits, as it is the artist’s bedroom when he visits the site. Eccentric? Bizarre? Yes, indeed. A place of worship? Most certainly not.

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