THE WARDROBE’S BEST DRESSED: “THE ROMANCE OF SIAM” BY JAI ARUN RAVINE

Jai Arun Ravine

JIM THOMPSON, BANGKOK

He had become a sort of landmark himself, a personality so widely known, though he read every available book on the region, there are too many relatively safe ways to dispose of a person in Asia, since it has no clearly defined center and there is almost as much pleasure in seeming to be behind the scenes, as in being behind them,

that a letter addressed simply TO: JIM THOMPSON, BANGKOK found its way to him in a city of 3.5 million people, TO: GPS or Google Earth as a municipality translated into a play, he is a plot of land marked with gaffing tape instead of numbers, sketched as a series of scenes illustrated in a guidebook (read: novel), he is the center-justified title of a stage adaptation of a disposable city, THE TWELVE MEANINGS OF ESCAPE.

Jim directs 12 modern dance students, disposing of his own body as a character. He longs to pull the curtains and strike the set, TO: mark stage center-center with a glow-in-the-dark X, to construct a landmark out of three suitcases that the dancers then dismantle and manipulate. They read from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Gentleman in the Parlour and reenact random scenes at twelve minute intervals. Each scene must incorporate the three suitcases and the disposal of a body. In the play Jim enters a novel and reads himself to the dancers, who lyricize his disappearance. TO: enter a novel requires transferring the body into language, into a landmark that can be used to mark the page.

In the absence of a central figure, THE TWELVE MEANINGS OF ESCAPE centralizes twelve scenes, each defined by a hidden landmark that the twelve dancers must uncover and dispose of during the duration of the performance. TO: watch Jim’s play is to read his ineffable presence in the text, but to discover that the escaped body is unreadable—at the center but not centered—addressed TO: a final scene that remains unwritten, an epilogue that has been disposed and replaced with a landmark.

He had become the sort of landmark you read about in books, one of many White men who were lost, disposed, but who still occupy the center of scenes TO: which we are inexplicably drawn.


Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and graphic designer. As a mixed race, mixed gender and mixed genre artist, their work arises from the simultaneity of text and body and takes the form of video, performance, comics and handmade books. Jai’s first full-length book, แล้ว AND THEN ENTWINE: LESSON PLANS, POEMS, KNOTS, re-imagines immigration history and attempts to transform cultural inheritances of silence. Their short film TOM/TRANS/THAI approaches the silence around female-to-male (FTM) transgender identity in the Thai context and has screened internationally. THE ROMANCE OF SIAM is their second book.

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