Sunday, 7 July 2019

Uncensored

Uncensored
Peace
Past Box
The Dictator of Thailand
This afternoon, street artist Headache Stencil organised an exhibition and concert at the Jam Factory in Bangkok. (It was originally due to take place at Warehouse 30.) The event, Uncensored, was a demonstration of freedom of expression, and an artistic response to the military government. Prime Minister and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha was the main target, shown riddled with bullet holes (Peace) and condemned as The Dictator of Thailand.

Some works from Headache Stencil’s Thailand Casino exhibition were included, notably “Y” Card, along with a new installation (Past Box) filled with more stencils of Prayut. The anonymous artist himself made a rare public appearance, and even left his face uncovered whenever he wasn’t in front of a camera.

Wee Viraporn’s sculpture Watch!, from the Internet Universality Beyond Words exhibition, was also on show, though the highlight was a concert by bands including Rap Against Dictatorship and Liberate the People. The concert, which ran for an hour longer than scheduled, ended with a fantastic live performance of Which Is My Country (ประเทศกูมี).

audio

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

History of Information Graphics

History of Information Graphics
Sandra Rendgen’s Information Graphics began with a fascinating 100-page section on the history of infographics, and her follow-up book Understanding the World reproduced several historical infographics. Her latest book - like the previous volumes, published by Taschen in folio format and edited by Julius Wiedemann - is a survey of 1,000 years of information graphics.

History of Information Graphics includes more than 400 infographics, “from the Middle Age manuscript culture in Europe through the Renaissance and modern era to the European and North American mass media of the 20th century.” The reproductions (including six fold-outs) are treated not as mere illustrations, but as functional data sources, printed with such clarity that their maps and charts remain legible.

The book’s many highlights include a plate from Andreas Cellarius’ Harmonia Macrocosmica, volvelles from Peter Apian’s Astronomicum Caesareum (also reproduced in Cosmigraphics), and Joseph Minard’s flow map of Napoleon’s Russian campaign. (Rendgen is an expert on Minard, whose map was described by Edward R. Tufte in The Visual Display Of Quantitative Information as “the best statistical graphic ever drawn”.)

Unfortunately, the elegantly simple yet revolutionary diagram of a heliocentric solar system by Nicolaus Copernicus (reproduced in 100 Diagrams That Changed the World) is not included. John Snow’s influential map of London cholera infections is an even more surprising omission, though it was featured in Rendgen’s first book, Information Graphics.

History of Information Graphics is the first comprehensive history of the entire field of infographics, though there have been previous books on specific infographic formats, such as the timeline (Cartographies of Time), the cutaway (Look Inside), the tree diagram (The Book of Trees), and the educational chart (The Art of Instruction). Also, Visual Journalism and Harold Evans’ Pictures on a Page discuss the development of news graphics.

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Nation

The Nation
Today marks the final print edition of The Nation, with a commemorative “FAREWELL EDITION” printed on heavy white paper rather than regular newsprint. The newspaper was launched in 1971 as a rival to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s other English-language daily, though it will now exist only online. The Nation had already folded its Sunday edition almost exactly a year ago, on 1st July 2018.

Although it had defied the military government after ‘Black May’ in 1992, The Nation became an apologist for the 2006 and 2014 junta administrations. Ironically, in the months before its closure, it regained some of its credibility with a series of liberal editorials. On 29th May, for example, it published a surprisingly bold obituary of Prem Tinsulanonda: “Prem’s legacy will be to inspire military top brass to maintain their strong influence in politics, to the diminishment of democracy in Thailand.”

The transition from print to digital-first has led to declining revenue at many news organisations, as readers and classified advertisers migrate to free online alternatives. Online advertising, dominated by a Google and Facebook duopoly, generates a fraction of the income from print ads, and print circulations are falling. In the UK, The Independent and its Sunday sister paper ended their print editions in 2016.

Dimensionism

Dimensionism
Manifeste Dimensioniste
Budapest
Charles Sirató’s Manifeste Dimensioniste (‘Dimensionist manifesto’), first published in France in 1936, applied Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to the visual arts: “We must accept - contrary to the classical conception - that Space and Time are no longer separate categories, but rather that they are related dimensions... and thus all the old limits and boundaries of the arts disappear.”

Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein, edited by Vanja V. Malloy, is the catalogue to an exhibition of Dimensionist art held last year, though it also serves as “the first publication devoted to critical writing on Dimensioism.” It includes an English translation of the Dimensionist manifesto, which first appeared in the anthology Manifesto: A Century of Isms.

The book also features the first English translation of Sirató’s essay The History of the Dimensionist Manifesto. For good measure, that essay also incorporates a manifesto for another movement, a form of concrete poetry he called Glogoism: “I started out from the verb glogao = speak and called my new “ism” Glogoism. It sounded eccentric enough. Nobody really knew what it meant.”

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows
Bangkok’s Prince Theatre hotel will be screening François Truffaut's classic The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) on 29th June. The hotel is a converted cinema, and its rooms are decorated with vintage film memorabilia.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

World Class Cinema

World Class Cinema
8½
Pather Panchali
The Shining
Seven Samurai
The remaining schedule for the Thai Film Archive’s World Class Cinema (ทึ่ง! หนังโลก) season has now been confirmed. Federico Fellini’s will be shown on 21st July, followed by Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (পথের পাঁচালী) on 18th August, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining on 15th September. There will also be a free screening of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (七人の侍), on 28th December. As was the case earlier this year, last year, and in 2017, screenings will take place at the Scala cinema in Bangkok.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

“A shell company that’s
a money-laundering front...”

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has issued a formal apology to fellow MEP Richard Tice, chairman of the Brexit Party. Tice threatened legal action after Smith accused the Brexit Party of financial crimes, in a live interview with Sky News on 27th May. Smith has also agreed to contribute towards Tice’s legal costs.

In the interview, Smith said: “the only question about the Brexit Party now is which laws they’ve broken and where their campaign finances have come from, and we’ll find that out after the campaign, but they’re a shell company that’s a money-laundering front”. In a statement issued by his solicitors yesterday, Smith withdrew the claim: “I do not have any evidence to support such an allegation. I spoke in the heat of the moment and am happy to set the record straight.”

The Brexit Party, founded by former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, has been criticised by the UK Electoral Commission for its lack of financial transparency. In a report published last week, the EC concluded that the Party’s system of anonymous online fundraising “leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations”.

Monday, 17 June 2019

The Four

The Four
The New York Times
Financial Times
The Economist
Financial Times
Esquire
Financial Times
Scott Galloway’s book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google analyses the impact of the 800-pound gorillas of online technology: “Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet.” Galloway calls them “the Four Horsemen,” and Nick Bilton (author of Hatching Twitter) made the same point in a November 2017 Vanity Fair article: “The four horsemen of the coming economic apocalypse - Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook - have already flattened entire industries.” (Alphabet is Google’s parent company.)

Referring to the same tech oligopoly, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called them the “gang of four” at the D9 conference in 2011: “Obviously, one of them, in my view, is Google, the other three being Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.” Schmidt and Jared Cohen discussed the same four brands in The New Digital Age: “We believe that modern technology platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, are even more powerful than most people realize”. The Wall Street Journal (on Boxing Day 2012) assessed the rivalry between the same four firms (“Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook vs. Amazon”).

The Economist (on 1st December 2012) also highlighted the same quartet: “THE four giants of the internet age - Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - are extraordinary creatures. Never before has the world seen firms grow so fast or spread their tentacles so widely.” In a cartoon for the magazine’s cover, David Parkins depicted the companies as giant squid. Continuing the cephalopod metaphor, an article by Galloway in the March 2018 issue of Esquire featured an illustration by Andrew Rae representing the four companies as a giant octopus. A cartoon by Matt Kenyon in the Financial Times (23rd April 2018) shows the so-called FAANG group (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) as a mechanical octopus, and in today’s FT, Kenyon depicts the group (minus Netflix) as a steam train.

Farhad Manjoo has also written extensively about this group of big tech giants, initially in a Fast Company (November 2011) cover story: “Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon battle for the future”. Adding Microsoft to the mix, Manjoo calls them “the Frightful Five” and his 6th May 2017 New York Times column featured an illustration by Doug Chayka showing a raft formed from the five logos. A photomontage by James Ferguson in the Financial Times on 15th November 2017 showed the same five as UFOs over New York.

Friday, 14 June 2019

“Why bother with a milkshake when
you could get some battery acid?”

Heresy
UK police are investigating comedian Jo Brand following a comment she made on the BBC Radio 4 programme Heresy. After reports of milkshake being thrown at Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, Brand joked: “Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” After sustained laughter from the studio audience, she immediately qualified herself: “I’m not gonna do it. It’s purely a fantasy.”

The programme was broadcast on 11th June, though it was deleted from the iPlayer streaming service last night. Brand’s comment was played on Radio 4’s 6pm news bulletin yesterday, and on this morning’s midnight news. It was also played yesterday on Sky News. Scotland Yard announced that they had “received an allegation of incitement to violence” on 13th June.

video

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

1,000 books from 1872 to now

A list of over 1,000 books on cinema, art, and politics, organised by subject.

PDF

Friday, 7 June 2019

“Everything stays the same...”

Gen Prayut wins PM vote
Coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha was confirmed as Thai Prime Minister again last night, after he received a total of 500 votes from MPs and senators. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the progressive Future Forward party, gained 244 votes. Prayut’s second term was never in any real doubt, as he could count on the votes of the 250 senators he had appointed. (The democratic 1997 constitution introduced a fully elected Senate, though it was only 50% elected following the military’s 2007 constitution. After Prayut’s 2014 coup, the latest charter allowed the junta to appoint every senator.)

Prayut was nominated as Prime Minister by the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), though they lost the 24th March election, with 97 constituency MPs. Pheu Thai won the highest number of parliamentary seats, 136, though they lacked an overall majority. The new constitution supplemented the ‘first past the post’ system with an element of proportional representation, though incredibly the Election Commission only confirmed its seat-allocation formula after the election had taken place. Following an unprecedented delay, the official results were announced six weeks after the election.

As expected, the Commission’s calculations favoured minor parties at the expense of Pheu Thai, to prevent another landslide by Thaksin Shinawatra’s party. (The PPRP gained a further nineteen MPs, taking their total to 116.) Other attempts to bend the rules in favour of Prayut include the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart party and various trumped-up charges against Thanathorn. (He is currently suspended from parliament pending an investigation into his shares in V-Luck Media, though he has already provided evidence that he sold them before becoming an MP.)

Immediately after the election, Pheu Thai, Future Forward, and five smaller parties signed up for an anti-Prayut alliance of 246 MPs, just shy of a parliamentary majority. Meanwhile, the PPRP joined with ten single-seat micro-parties and others to form a pro-military group of 150 MPs. Pressure to join the PPRP coalition was intense: one Future Forward politician, for example, revealed that he had been offered 120 million baht to switch sides.

Two medium-sized parties, the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, played hard to get, declaring their support for the PPRP only one day before the prime ministerial vote. This gave the PPRP a last-minute total of 254 seats, a slim majority. Abhisit Vejjajiva, former Prime Minister and Democrat leader, resigned as an MP in protest at his party supporting Prayut. (During the election campaign, he had pledged to oppose Prayut’s candidacy, though after the election his party voted to break that commitment.)

Speaking to reporters today, Prayut said: “Everything stays the same.” After overthrowing a democratic government and being appointed Prime Minister by his hand-picked National Legislative Assembly, he has now been reappointed thanks to a rubber-stamp Senate and an acquiescent Election Commission. Prayut has ensured that, as so often in Thailand’s past, the military will dominate national politics for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

LGBT+ Film Festival 2019

LGBT+ Film Festival 2019
Mapplethorpe
My Own Private Idaho
Bangkok's second annual LGBT+ Film Festival will take place next month. Mapplethorpe, Ondi Timoner’s biopic of Robert Mapplethorpe, is one of the highlights, showing on 4th and 5th July. (The film is unrated, as it includes examples of Mapplethorpe’s sexually explicit photography, as seen in the recent documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures.)

The LGBT+ Film Festival 2019 opens at Bangkok Screening Room on 2nd July. It will end with a screening of the New Queer Cinema classic My Own Private Idaho on 7th July. The event is programmed by Thapanan Wichitratthakarn.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Tawan Wattuya: Works 2009-2019

Tawan Wattuya: Works 2009-2019
Untitled Untitled
Tawan Wattuya: Works 2009-2019, published this month, features selected works in watercolour by Tawan Wattuya. The monograph is organised thematically, and includes essays by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Iola Lenzi, Kong Rithdee, and Prabda Yoon, amongst others. It was edited by Myrtille Tibayrenc.

Of the hundreds of included works, Tawan’s paintings of a hanging corpse from the 6th October 1976 massacre, and a man beating the victim with a chair, are among the highlights. There are also sexually explicit paintings from his Story of the Eye exhibition. Unfortunately, his Red Faces series was excluded.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Amnesia

Amnesia
Tawan Wattuya’s exhibition Amnesia opened yesterday at 1Projects in Bangkok. The exhibition features his Red Faces series, painted in 2011 and previously shown at the Khonkaen Manifesto (ขอนแก่น แมนิเฟสโต้) group exhibition.

The series of eighteen portraits depicts red-shirt protesters who were shot dead by the military on 10th April 2010. A book commemorating the victims, วีรชน 10 เมษา คนที่ตายมีใบหน้าคนที่ถูกฆ่ามีชีวิต (‘heroes of 10th April: the faces of the dead live on’), was published in 2011.

The exhibition title, Amnesia, reflects the absence of the massacre from the collective memory. Like previous acts of Thai military violence against civilians - in 1973, 1976, and 1992 - the crackdowns of April and May 2010 have been whitewashed from history, with no prosecutions of soldiers or army officers. The exhibition runs until 14th July.

PDF

Friday, 24 May 2019

‪มันทำร้ายเราได้แค่นี้แหละ

Prontip Mankong’s prison diary, ‪มันทำร้ายเราได้แค่นี้แหละ (‘all they could do to us’), was published earlier this year. Prontip was jailed in 2015 for lèse-majesté, after she directed a play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), which was performed at Thammasat University in 2013. She was released from prison in 2016.

The book, which is almost 900 pages long, reproduces notes Prontip wrote by hand while serving her sentence. Her boyfriend was interviewed about her conviction in the documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), and ห้องเช่าหมายเลข 112 (‘room no. 112 for rent’) profiles twenty-two fellow lèse-majesté prisoners.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Suspiria

Suspiria
Dario Argento’s classic horror film Suspiria will be shown at Smalls, the Bangkok bar, on Sunday evening. The rooftop screening is free of charge.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

11:11

11:11
Madonna is featured on Maluma’s new album, 11:11, which will be released on 17th May; she appears on one track, Soltera (‘single’). Likewise, Madonna’s forthcoming album Madame X features Maluma on two tracks: Medellín and Bitch I’m Loca.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Les deux freres et les lions

Les deux freres et les lions
Les deux freres et les lions
Les deux freres et les lions
Les deux freres et les lions
David Barclay is suing a French playwright for libel and invasion of privacy. The court case, which began yesterday, relates to the play Les deux frères et les lions (‘the two brothers and the lions’), written by Hédi Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre and first performed in 2013. The play is a thinly-veiled satire on the Barclay twins, David and Frederick, owners of The Daily Telegraph newspaper. David Barclay is seeking a ban on any future performances of the play, and on sales of its script, which was published in 2017.

The play is a two-hander, and its unnamed characters are referred to as ‘l’aîné’ (‘elder’) and ‘le cadet’ (‘younger’). The lawsuit cites two specific passages, both spoken by ‘l’aîné’, the character based on David Barclay, the older twin. In the first of the contentious lines, found on page 43 of the published script, he declares himself above the law. In the second controversial passage, on page 48, he complains that his children will suffer due to Norman inheritance laws.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Pioneer in Video Art

Pioneer in Video Art
The Pioneer in Video Art [sic.] (นิทรรศการผู้บุกเบิกศิลปะวีดีโอจากประเทศไทย ประเทศสโลวีเนีย และประเทศนอร์เวย์ ตั้งแต่ปี 1980) exhibition at BACC in Bangkok features video art from Thailand, Slovenia, and Norway. The exhibition's subtitle is Thailand, Slovenia, Norway Since 1980, though that date appears arbitrary, as a few pre-1980 videos are included and most works are post-2000.

One of the highlights is Arnont Nongyao's Ghost Rabbit and the Casket Sales (กระต่ายผี กับ คนขายโลง), in which a DJ samples the Thai junta's propaganda song Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย). Like the lead character in Baby Driver, the DJ remixes snippets of audio with a cassette recorder. Wheels with abstract patterns are shown spinning, symbolising vinyl records and evoking Marcel Duchamp's Dada film Anaemic Cinema. The film ends with a tattered Thai flag, as in the poster for Ing Kanjanavanit's Citizen Juling (พลเมืองจูหลิง).

Slovenian artist Vuk Cosić renders moving images semi-abstract by converting them to ASCII text. For his video Deep ASCII, he applied this technique to clips from two classic porn movies, The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat.

Several major Thai video artists are missing from the exhibition, most notably Apichatpong Weerasethakul. (He was also omitted from an earlier survey of Thai video art, From Message to Media.) Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is included, however, represented by A Walk, a slow-motion video in which she wanders among shrouded corpses in a morgue.

Pioneer in Video Art opened yesterday, though half of the exhibition was still under wraps on the first day. As of today, all works are now on show, though the signage is still being put up. The exhibition closes on 29th June.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Field Trip Project Asia

Field Trip Project Asia
Parade of Golden Snail
Parade of Golden Snail
Parade of Golden Snail
Office of Contemporary Art and Culture
The Field Trip Project Asia exhibition has been on display since 9th April, though the show's highlight came yesterday evening, with a surreal piece of performance art. For Chulayarnnon Siriphol's Parade of Golden Snail (ขบวนแห่หอยทากทอง), Nuttorn Kungwanklai led a procession through the gallery with mock solemnity. Accompanied by a drummer and two Scouts (as seen in Planetarium, Chulayarnnon's segment of Ten Years Thailand), Nuttorn carried a giant snail shell.

This golden shell has been a recurring motif in Chulayarnnon's recent work. Nuttorn previously held it in Chulayarnnon's short film Golden Spiral (part of Ghost:2561). It also featured in his short film Birth of Golden Snail, which was banned from last year's Thailand Biennale. The Office of Contemporary Art and Culture's letter confirming the ban is included in the Field Trip Project Asia exhibition. The show runs until 5th May, at BACC in Bangkok.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Santikhiri Sonata

Santikhiri Sonata
Thunska Pansittivorakul's Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา) was filmed in Thailand's northernmost province, Chiang Rai, in the villages of Mae Salong and Hin Taek, whose names were changed by the government to draw a line under their sinister legacies. Mae Salong was renamed Santikhiri ('hill of peace'), and Hin Taek became Thoet Thai ('honour Thailand'), though they were sites of anti-Communist violence during the Cold War. Santikhiri Sonata examines this violent heritage - "A lot of people were killed, including villagers" - and includes graphic photographs of victims caught in the crossfire of a 1982 military raid on Thoet Thai.

Similarly, Apichatpong Weerasethakul made several films in and around the village of Nabua, a location with an equally loaded history to that of Santikhiri, as its inhabitants were among the first victims of the anti-Communist purge. In his short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถงลงบญม), a narrator recalls the area's past: "Soldiers once occupied this place. They killed and tortured the villagers and forced them to flee to the jungle." The seemingly tranquil landscapes in Pachara Piyasongsoot's Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) exhibition also represent politically charged locations. His Nabua (นาบัว) series includes 'No Happiness Other than Serenity', whose ironic title refers to a slogan painted on the gate of a temple used as a Communist detention centre.

Thailand's suppression of Communist insurgents was a guerrilla war lasting almost two decades. A character in Anocha Suwichakornpong's film By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) describes how suspected Communists were "thrown out of helicopters or set on fire in oil barrels." Thunska alludes to these 'red barrel killings' in Santikhiri Sonata with a caption describing the elimination of subversives by "pushing them into a 'CXII Red Suitcase'". The Roman numerals refer to Thailand's notorious lèse-majesté law, article 112 of the criminal code, which Thunska addressed in Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล).

Santikhiri Sonata also comments on more recent cases of state violence. Military cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan died during a training exercise in 2017, and his internal organs were removed to prevent an autopsy determining his cause of death. The central characters in Santikhiri Sonata discuss a cadet "whose insides, heart, and brain were all taken out of his body". Similarly, a young human-rights activist, Chaiyaphum Pasae, was killed at a military checkpoint in 2017, and the film describes the circumstances of his death: "eyewitnesses say he was unarmed, and was beaten before being shot." More provocatively, a song composed by King Rama IX, Echo (แว่ว), is repurposed as an ode to Chaiyaphum's memory.

The director's trademark sexual content is also present. In fact, Santikhiri Sonata is his most explicit film since Reincarnate (จุติ). It includes a montage of clips from gay pornographic videos, progressing from 'solo' scenes to hardcore material, accompanied by Jaran Manopet's folk song บ้านบนดอย ('home on the hillside'). (The lyrics at first seem incongruous, though they end with the words "overflowing kindness" as a porn star reaches his climax.) This combination of homoerotic imagery and political critique is a consistent feature of Thunska's films, including This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), and Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ).

Another trait in Thunska's work is the blurring of boundaries between documentary, drama, and autobiography. His films are densely constructed, their fictional narratives accompanied by found footage, historical captions, and on-camera interventions by the director. Santikhiri Sonata is his most structurally complex film, alternating between contemporary naturalism and a dystopian future, with metatextual behind-the-scenes sequences.