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Updating Jim Thompson's legacy for the 21st century

Famed museum's new arts center highlights contemporary Thai and international art

A ticket to the Jim Thompson House Museum now offers entry to two venues: the genteel former home of the late silk tycoon and the new Jim Thompson Art Center, an airy raw concrete building hosting exhibitions of contemporary art and related events. (Source photos by John Clewley)

BANGKOK -- A woman is weaving in the old house that Thai silk built. On video screens suspended in the dark teakwood rooms of the renowned Jim Thompson House Museum, leotard-clad performance artist Kawita Vatanajyankur is using her body to mimic a knitting machine. With admirable grit and visible discomfort, she mechanically twists, rolls or contorts, like a badly oiled cog, to create reels of thick colored yarn.

Shot against bold, luminous backgrounds, Kawita's short films are arresting metaphors for the suffering of workers in our age of low-cost fast fashion, much of which is mass-produced in Southeast Asia's textile factories.

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