Taking Shape: Chai Kamrai
Our graduating students share the process behind their practice. Here, Chai Kamrai, BA Fine Art, explores consumerism, race and satire with his White Copyright pop-up shop.
I’ve created a brand White Copyright; its aim is to make whiteness available for everyone, whatever that entails. It’s really up to the consumer to form their own interpretation of what that is, what they’re buying.
The purpose of that brand is to make whiteness available to purchase so we’re using the degree show as an opportunity to open a fully-functioning pop-up shop. Our products include White GarmentsTM, White Fragility TapeTM, The White Person BagTM, White SpiritTM, White MatterTM and the White Noise machineTM (which is sold out).
It’s a language we all understand. I see myself as satirising that and, in part, it’s a comment on the art world as well. I looked at brands like Off White, Supreme or Apple – all these hype brands and played with the language of them, creating an aura. I wanted to see what happens when you combine that with a narrative of whiteness.
Fiction and Reality
Art always plays with some kind of fiction. Users have to put themselves into a different logic. It’s a fiction with an underlying truth and it’s very telling how far people choose to take that fiction. With Whiteness Copyright it often depends on the identity of the people buying the products. The White Copyright keyrings are £230.50 but with the IAMNOTWHITE code they’re £5.50. We leave it up to the discretion of the customer whether they want to use that code or not.
I use humour in my everyday life to negotiate things so it’s unsurprising that it shows up in my work. You can defuse the harshness of things with humour. Creating White Copyright has multiple functions but one is definitely negotiating my internalised racism and need to assimilate. It’s a response to those feelings.
In terms of imagery and the use of text, I was inspired by Adrian Piper, the iconic performance artist. She uses text to provoke interrogation of power structures and self-introspection. Texts that I looked to are Jose Estaban Munoz’s Disidentifications and Richard Dyer’s essays Whiteness. Dyer's reading of whiteness as constructed through symbolism and race thoroughly inspired me.
Chai Kamrai's work is part of Show One: Art, 22-26 May at Central Saint Martins.