Relive Gregor Samsa’s bad day in VR when Kafka fest comes to Bangkok and Chiang Mai

‘Unfolding Kafka’ has grown into a huge thing, here are our picks for what to check out
‘Unfolding Kafka’ has grown into a huge thing, here are our picks for what to check out

A biennial art event dedicated to the life and work of famed German writer Franz Kafka is getting a high-tech update for its third edition later this year in two cities — Bangkok and Chiang Mai. 

An even bigger Unfolding Kafka Festival is back with art installations, film screenings, sculptures, performances and even an immersive virtual reality tour of Kafka’s world. 

The festival, which reinterprets Kafka in various disciplines, was founded by director and choreographer Jitti Chompee and is supported by several organizations and embassies including the Goethe-Institut, the Japan Foundation and Alliance Francaise. 

Unfolding Kafka runs Oct. 26 through Dec. 15 at many venues in Bangkok such as the Goethe-Institut on Soi Sathorn 1, the neo-classical Neilson Hays Library and Rose Hotel Bangkok on Surawong Road.

In Chiang Mai, the festival will be held at the Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum 15 minutes from downtown in the San Kamphaeng district.

Single events range from free to THB800. All-access festival passes are available for THB4,000.

Below are some of the highlights we think will be most worth checking out.


Strap on a headset and wake in another world as salesman Gregor Samsa at the start of a very perplexing day. That means transforming, yes, into a giant bug.

Kafka’s best-known work, The Metamorphosis, gets a VR update thanks to a collaboration between the Goethe-Institut in Prague, movie director Mika Johnson and software developers Achtung4k. 

VRWandlung will take place Nov. 16 to Dec. 15 inside a library at the Goethe-Institut Thailand.

Kafkaesque Films

A scene from ‘The Flat’ by Jan Svankmajer. 
A scene from ‘The Flat’ by Jan Svankmajer.

A selection of films inspired by Kafka’s grotesque universe will show on the big screen. Among them is John Williams’ The Trial (2018), that brings Kafka’s novel of the same name into modern-day Japan, and 1968 Czechoslovak animation The Flat, which circles around a man trapped in a sinister apartment where everything defies the laws of nature. 

The movies will show Nov. 16 and Nov. 17 at Goethe-Institut Thailand. 

Des Gestes Blancs

A delicate duet between a father and his son, Sylvain and Charlie Bouillet, will take the stage for a poetic production exploring paternal bonds through the bodies of a child and adult. The show has toured Europe and will premiere in Thailand, its first destination in Asia.

The performance will take place Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 at Host BKK, a newly opened dance studio on Rama IV Road.

L’Homme de Boue

Meet the mud man who keeps throwing even if things keep falling. Combining sculptural art with circus juggling, the conceptual show is an intense, one-hour physical solo performance involving a monster who doesn’t respond to norms. 

The show will run in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. In Chiang Mai, it will start at 7pm on DATE at the Maiiam Contemporary. In Bangkok, it shows at 7:30pm on Nov. 27 at the Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts at Chulalongkorn University. 


ฺBrazillian-born dancer Vania Vaneau teams up with guitarist Simon Dijoud to perform a theatrical piece based on research into trance and transformation through shamanism and ritual. Trying to peel back each layer of the human body, the show works with textile materials to deal with skins and clothing covering them before removal, unleashing imagination and rationale.

The show will be staged in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It starts at 7:30pm on Nov. 20 at the Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts at Chulalongkorn University, then heads north for a 7pm showing on Nov. 23 at the Maiiam Contemporary. 

Hard to be a God

Image: Bruno Simao via Unfolding Kafka Festival
Image: Bruno Simao via Unfolding Kafka Festival

Performed by Lisbon-based artists John Romao and Romeu Runa, Hard to be a God invites audience to observe them through a huge glass window. The site-specific performance reflects the human means of disappearance, through camouflage or concealment, that dominate contemporary life.

Warning: The show is 20 and up due to the production’s partial nudity. 

The duo will show their stuff Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 at the Neilson Hays Library on Surawong Road.

“I Am a Cage, In Search of a Bird”

Inspired by an unfinished portrait by figurative painter Francis Bacon, Peter Welz combines drawing and painting with video projections to explore the relationship between human bodies and space. The artwork, previously shown at the Louvre, establishes a visual and theoretical link to Kafka’s notion of animalism and distorted figures.

The installation will show Oct. 26 through Nov. 22 at Chiang Mai’s Maiiam Contemporary.

Read more of Coconuts Bangkok’s Lifestyle content here:

Notable writers to discuss hot topics at Bangkok library’s inaugural Lit Festival 

WWI rages again in Peter Jackson docu to show at Bangkok’s Scala 

This year’s Bangkok International Festival of Dance 

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