Grandma, I Want a Penis

by Dusadee Huntrakul | Bangkok City City Gallery, THB 700 (hardcover)

By Adeline Chia

Grandma, I Want A Penis by Dusadee Huntrakul. Courtesy the artist

This charming tale is based on the true story of Thai artist Dusadee Huntrakul’s wife, Pat. As a child with two brothers who played ‘pee pee fencing’, she badgered her grandmother to buy her a penis from the market ‘to attach to [her] vagina’. Her grandma would tell her that the penis stall was closed or that her purchase had been left in a rickshaw. Eventually her brothers stopped their game and Pat forgot her request.

‘Thirty-six years later, in front of the Bull Rock Cave in Brno, Czech Republic, I get a call,’ the narrator, presumably Pat, continues. ‘A last call from grandma before she dies.’ Pat’s husband sees her grandma’s ghost that night. ‘She comes from the balcony and out through the front door.’ And nine months later...

The resultant family made this book. It would be both easy and boring to slap a Freudian reading on this. The narrative, coauthored by the couple and having the simple, irresistible lines of a perfect dinner-party anecdote, is matched by playful pencil illustrations drawn by the couple, their one-year-old son, Prinn, and a friend’s five-year-old boy, Max. It isn’t always possible to tell the precise authorship, but there are the obvious kiddie dicks, and the more elegant, faux-naive drawings of biomorphic figures with assorted genitalia done by an adult hand. All in all, it manages to be both a credible children’s book and an artist book.

It is published on the occasion of They Talk, an exhibition of Huntrakul’s recent ceramic sculptures at Bangkok City City Gallery. If you missed the show, this is a perfect stocking-stuffer for your artworld friends – and their kids.

From the Winter 2019 issue of ArtReview Asia