Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Ten Years Thailand

Scala
Ten Years Thailand
Ten Years Thailand had its gala premiere yesterday at the Scala cinema in Bangkok. A portmanteau of four short films, by four of the country's most acclaimed directors, it offers a dystopian vision of Thailand a decade from now, and represents a voice of dissent in a time of military rule. Thai history seems destined to repeat itself, stuck in an endless cycle of political instability. Thus, the future predicted by Ten Years Thailand is also a commentary on Thailand's past and present.

The film's first segment, Aditya Assarat's black-and-white 'Sunset', is based on an event that occurred last year. In the film, a group of soldiers inspect an art gallery and order the removal of 'inappropriate' images from a photography exhibition. The film's artist (Sirikanya Thomson) and exhibition (I Laughed so Hard I Cried) are fictional, though in 2017 a group of soldiers demanded the removal of photographs from Harit Srikhao's Whitewash exhibition at Gallery VER in Bangkok. For added verisimilitude, Aditya's restaging of the military's art censorship was filmed at Artist+Run, a gallery adjacent to Gallery VER. As an in-joke, Artist+Run's gallerist Angkrit Ajchariyasophon plays one of the soldiers in the film.

In Wisit Sasanatieng's quirky Citizen Dog (หมานคร), city dwellers all grew tails. 'Catopia', his segment of Ten Years Thailand, is a much darker variant on the theme: almost everyone has (CGI) cat's heads, and the few remaining humans are hunted and killed. The film critiques Thailand's traditional values of social conformity and unity, and also echoes the country's anti-Communist paranoia of the 1970s, when suspected Communists and left-wing students were attacked by militia groups. Yet, despite its political satire, and some full-frontal female nudity in Wisit's segment, Ten Years Thailand was passed uncut by Thailand's censors, and even received a surprisingly lenient '13' rating.

In Chulayarnnon Siriphol's science-fiction segment, 'Planetarium', citizens demonstrate loyalty by standing to respect their leader, and those who lie on the ground in protest (as in Chulayarnnon's short film Planking) are detained. The kitsch design elements (neon pyramids, an animated stargate, and pink costumes) are a mask for an authoritarian regime, just as Thailand's repressive junta pledged to 'bring back happiness to the people'. The leader and her minions all wear Scout uniforms, recalling the Village Scout royalist militia that instigated violent attacks on students in 1976. Ten Years Thailand begins with a quotation adapted from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four ("Who controls the past... controls the future"), and 'Planetarium' is the film's most Orwellian segment. Its vision of surveillance and obedience is shared with Thunska Pansittivorakul's Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), which used the same Orwell quote as its tagline.

Ten Years Thailand concludes with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 'Song of the City', in which a man attempts to sell a "Good Sleep Machine" guaranteeing peaceful sleep. Throughout his sales pitch, a statue of military dictator Sarit Thanarat looms over him, indicating the perpetuation of the country's militaristic ideology. Sarit's ominous presence is also felt in Apichatpong's Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น), as his portrait hangs on a canteen wall. In that film, which was also made under military rule, soldiers suffer from a mysterious epidemic of sleeping sickness: for Apichatpong, sleep is a metaphor for an oppressive society, and a source of escapism for the oppressed.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Anatomy of Silence

Anatomy of Silence
Pachara Piyasongsoot's exhibition Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) is currently on show at Bangkok's Artist+Run gallery. On the surface, Pachara's paintings depict tranquil landscapes, though they also contain hidden meanings relating to Thailand's violent political past. The works are divided into two exhibitions: Nabua (นาบัว) and Sequence (ผลสืบเนื่อง).

The paintings in the Nabua series, which were on show from 24th November to 7th December, feature incongruous objects situated in natural landscapes, such as a temple gate on the seashore. These works allude to Nabua's legacy as a site of state-sanctioned anti-Communist purges.

Specifically, the gate refers to a local temple where Communists were detained in 1965. A slogan painted on the gate ('No Happiness Other than Serenity') conceals the site's sinister legacy, and Pachara uses the slogan as the painting's ironic title. (Apichatpong Weerasethakul's short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถงลงบญม) also examines anti-Communist violence at Nabua.)

The Sequence series opened on 8th December, and runs until 20th December. The works in this exhibition allude to further acts of state violence and military dictatorship: the 6th October 1976 massacre and the 2006 coup d'état.

'What a Wonderful World: Parallel Side of the Red Gate' (another deeply ironic title) is the most powerful painting in this series. It was inspired by the documentary The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง), about two men who were hanged by police from a gate in 1976 for the 'crime' of campaigning against Thanom Kittikachorn's return from exile. Pachara's painting shows the view from the gate, representing the men's last sight before their deaths.

Similarly, 'The Sun Is Gone but I Have a Light' also shows the final viewpoint of a hanged man: that of a taxi driver who hanged himself in protest at the coup. The landscape has been obscured with white paint, rendering the image abstract and literally whitewashing the man's martyrdom.

Another work also refers to a specific victim: 'Undergrowth with the Lovers' features a portrait of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died in jail while serving a twenty-year sentence for lèse-majesté. (Another Apichatpong connection: his film Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น) features a journal entry ("ขอให้อากงได้ออกมา") calling for Ampon's release.)

The Anatomy of Silence catalogue, with essays by the artist and Thanavi Chotpradit, also includes some of Pachara's earlier works, such as 'The Garden'. This painting features the distinctive tree trunk from Neal Ulevich's photograph of the 1976 massacre.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Freedom Thai Film

Freedom Thai Film
Freedom Thai Film
A panel discussion about Thai film censorship took place this afternoon at BACC in Bangkok. Freedom Thai Film (กู้อิสรภาพหนังไทย), organised by the Thai Film Director Association, was introduced by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, whose Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด) was released last year.

The event was prompted by the censorship of Surasak Pongson's Thibaan: The Series 2.2 (ไทบ้านเดอะซีรีส์ 2.2) last month: three cuts were required before it was passed for release. (I interviewed Surasak before the discussion started, and he explained that he worked around the clock for two days to release the film on time despite the censorship.)

Manit Sriwanichpoom, producer of the still-banned Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย), also took part, as did Theerawat Rujinatham, director of Rap Against Dictatorship's anthemic music video Which Is My Country (ประเทศกูมี). The event was similar to Freedom on Film (สิทธิหนังไทย), a seminar held at BACC in 2013.

video

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

"'NICK' UNMASKED"

Daily Mail
Daily Mail
Two years ago, the Daily Mail newspaper was fined £40,000 for not sufficiently disguising the identity of an alleged sexual-assault victim. On 19th September 2015, the Mail had published a pixelated photograph of a man known by the alias Nick, though only the centre of his face was obscured.

The man, whose real name is Carl Beech, has since been charged with perverting the course of justice, after it became clear that his allegations of a political paedophile network were fabricated. Yesterday, Newcastle Crown Court ruled that his identity could be revealed, and on page five today the Mail has published an unpixelated version of his photograph.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

El Intermedio

El Intermedio
Spanish comedian Dani Mateo appeared in court on Monday, after being charged with disrespecting a national symbol. On his satirical news programme El Intermedio, he blew his nose on the Spanish flag, and then stroked and kissed it in a mock apology. Representatives of a police union filed charges against the TV presenter after the show was broadcast on 31st October. The TV channel, laSexta, deleted the sketch from its website the next day.

video

Thursday, 22 November 2018

攻占

The Chinese author of 攻占, a homoerotic novel about an affair between a teacher and his student, has been jailed for ten years. The book was published anonymously last year, and 7,000 copies were sold online. Under Chinese obscenity law, an extended jail term can be imposed for the distribution of more than 5,000 copies of pornographic materials.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Thibaan: The Series 2.2

Thibaan: The Series 2.2
Thibaan: The Series 2.2 (ไทบ้านเดอะซีรีส์ 2.2), directed by Surasak Pongson, was banned by Thai film censors yesterday, two days before its scheduled release. The censors objected to a scene in which a young monk breaks down in tears at the funeral of his ex-girlfriend. The Thai Film Director Association held a press conference this afternoon at BACC in Bangkok, during which they played the contentious sequence. (The three-minute clip shows the monk sobbing as he clutches his ex-girlfriend's coffin. On Facebook, the director described it as the emotional heart of the film.)

A handful of other Thai films have been banned in the past decade: This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด), Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย), Boundary (ฟ้าตํ่าแผ่นดินสูง), and Karma (อาบัติ). Additionally, Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ), Headshot (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), Angulimala (องคุลิมาล), and หลวงตา 3 สีกาข้างวัด have been censored due to their depiction of monks, and there were protests in 2007 over two prize-winning paintings that represented monks in an unflattering light.

video

6th October

The Terrorists
The massacre of students at Bangkok's Thammasat University on 6th October 1976 remains one of the most violent episodes in Thailand's modern history. Its depiction in films and art has caused controversy and led to censorship, in an ongoing effort to sanitise or whitewash the event. I've written a survey of the representation of the massacre in Thai cinema, covering documentaries, short films, and feature films.

PDF

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Quavo Huncho

Quavo Huncho
Quavo Huncho is the debut solo album of Quavo, the rapper who has previously performed as part of a trio (Migos) and duo (Huncho Jack). One track, Champagne Rosé, features guest vocals by Madonna and Cardi B.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Diva

Diva
Diva, by Jean-Jacques Beineix, will be screened on the rooftop of Smalls, a Bangkok bar, on 11th November. The screening is free. Diva marked the beginning of a movement known as cinéma du look: stylised French films influenced by advertising and music videos. Beineix is most famous as the director of Betty Blue (37°2 du matin).

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

"สวัสดีปีใหม่ 2019"

Police officers and soldiers in Ubon Ratchathani have seized copies of a 2019 wall calendar. The calendar features photographs of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, the message "HAPPY NEW YEAR" in English and Thai ("สวัสดีปีใหม่ 2019"), and new year's greetings from the two former prime ministers.

5,553 of the calendars were confiscated yesterday. The seizure came a day after a woman in Udon Thani, who posted photographs of the calendar online, was visited by police officers and soldiers.

Similar calendars were banned in 2016, along with plastic Songkran bowls, which also featured seasonal messages from Thaksin and Yingluck. All political activity has been prohibited by the military junta for the past four years. Thaksin and Yingluck were both removed from office by military coups (in 2006 and 2014, respectively).

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies

The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies
The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies, published last month, was first published as Horror in 2006. That first edition featured reviews of 300 classic horror films. A second edition, Horror!: 333 Films to Scare You to Death, was released in 2010. A third, Horror: The Definitive Companion to the Most Terrifying Movies Ever Made, appeared in 2013.

The book was originally conceived and edited by James Marriott (who also contributed most of the reviews), with ten essays by Kim Newman. Marriott died in 2012, so the additional reviews in the third edition were all written by Stephen Thrower. For this year's edition, the new reviews have all been written by Owen Williams. Whereas the first edition was published in hardback, with colour photographs, the images in the subsequent paperback editions are all black-and-white.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Cemetery of Splendour

Cemetery of Splendour
Apichatpong Weerasethakul will show his most recent feature film, Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น), at the Thai Film Archive on 19th November. The film was shown internationally in 2015, though it did not receive a Thai release.

Apichatpong's film Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was cut by the Thai censorship board, and he therefore decided not to submit Cemetery of Splendour to the censors, meaning it could not be shown in Thai cinemas. Once bitten, twice shy (though he did arrange a low-key screening for an invited audience at a mobile cinema in his home town of Chiang Mai on 23rd February).

It is, of course, a sad irony that one of the world's most acclaimed directors feels unable to show his work in his own country. When I interviewed Apichatpong in 2016, he explained that he had been inexplicably singled out by the censors: "I think that whatever I do, I will be targeted. Either a ghost movie, or whatever. It's a paranoid time. They're willing to do a witch-hunt, so I become paranoid of them in my own way, and I don't want to risk it. As long as I manage to finish this film as I want, and show it, but not here."

His hesitancy is due primarily to one sequence in Cemetery of Splendour, in which an audience stands in silence. Thai cinemagoers are required to stand for the royal anthem before film screenings, though the anthem cannot be included in films themselves, as Apichatpong told me: "I actually wanted to show the royal anthem, because it's documentary-like. It's what we do. But I know it's impossible, because in the movie Soi Cowboy [ซอยคาวบอย], this was cut out. Censored. So I said, 'It's impossible anyway.' So, just silence." Concerned that the silent scene could be misinterpreted, Apichatpong removed it from all DVD and blu-ray releases of the film, in case they were ever circulated in Thailand.

Like the director's other work, the film is not directly political, though it does include subtle visual references to Thailand's volatile political situation. A portrait of dictator Sarit Thanarat is visible in the background of one scene, implying the military's continued influence on Thai politics. (Similarly, a statue of Sarit looms over the characters in Apichatpong's short film Song of the City, part of the portmanteau film Ten Years Thailand.) Also, one of the characters keeps a journal, in which he writes that lèse-majesté convict Ampon Tangnoppakul should be released ("ขอให้อากงได้ออกมา"). (Apichatpong's short film Ashes includes footage of a demonstration by Ampon's supporters.)

Cemetery of Splendour will be screened free of charge, to celebrate Apichatpong receiving the FIAF Award from the International Federation of Film Archives. Previously, the Thai Film Archive screened his short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถึงลุงบุญมี) to mark his Palme d'Or win at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year, the Alliance Français organised an Apichatpong Weekend in honour of the director being named a Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Histoire(s) du thai cinéma

Histoires du thai cinema
Histoire(s) du thai cinéma, a marathon programme of Thai short films with political themes, took place over a weekend at Bangkok's Dam'n Cineclub earlier this year. The event, split into two twelve-hour sessions (18th and 19th August), was curated by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa.

The selected films covered Thai politics since the democratic revolution eighty years ago. The Six Principles (สัญญาของผู้มาก่อนกาล), directed by Abhichon Rattanabhayon, examines contemporary public perceptions of the 1932 revolution. Octoblur (ลมตุลาคม), directed by Patana Chirawong, intercuts footage of the 14th October 1973 massacre with the funeral of Thanom Kittikachorn, the military dictator who ordered the attack. Suchart Sawasdsri's "Red" at Last (มนัส เศียรสิงห์) and Manussak Dokmai's Don't Forget Me (อย่าลืมฉัน) both include footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre: "Red" at Last is narrated by a survivor of the tragedy, while Don't Forget Me features incongruous narration taken from a vintage documentary on the Mlabri tribe.

Thailand's recent political polarisation was represented by films examining the PAD, UDD, and PDRC protests. In Prap Boonpan's The Bangkok Bourgeois Party (ความลักลั่นของงานรื่นเริง), a group of yellow-shirted Bangkokians murder a man merely because he disagrees with their ideology. (This dystopian satire later became a reality, when PAD guards killed Narongsak Krobtaisong.) The UDD movement is featured in Red Movie (แกะแดง), directed by the Underground Office collective, which ends somewhat idealistically with John Lennon's utopian song Imagine. PDRC demonstrations appear in Boonyarit Wiangnon's Lice in the Wonderland (เพลี้ย) and two films by Chulayarnnon Siriphol: Here Comes the Democrat Party (ประชาธิปัตย์มาแล้ว) and Myth of Modernity.

The films with the most powerful impact were Nil Paksnavin's Rajprasong (ราชประสงค์), Nontawat Numbenchapol's Gaze and Hear (สายตา รับฟัง), and Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน) by Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap. Rajprasong ends with a black screen and the jolting sound of eighty-seven gunshots, representing the victims of the 2010 massacre in downtown Bangkok. Gaze and Hear is a parody of royalist propaganda, with a hypnotic voiceover and flashing lights inducing a trance-like state of obedience. Re-presentation ends with an artist unsuccessfully attempting to draw Democracy Monument, and tearing up his sketch to reveal a drawing of a Rama V statue on the page beneath, a reference to the established hierarchies underlying Thailand's elusive democracy.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

BNK44

BNK44
BNK44, the anti-coup punk concert that was cancelled last month, has been rescheduled to 3rd November. It will now be held at Thammasat University's monument to the 6th October 1976 massacre. The concert has been organised by the team behind จะ4ปีแล้วนะ.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Different Views, Death Sentence

Different Views, Death Sentence
Suthachai Yimprasert's Different Views, Death Sentence [sic.] (ต่างความคิด ผิดถึงตาย ๖ ตุลาคม ๒๕๑๙) was released on DVD in 2011. The documentary explores the long-term issues that led up to the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University, providing context and analysis missing from Pen-ek Ratanaruang's documentary Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย).

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

"Leading businessman...
gags The Telegraph"

The Daily Telegraph
Sir Philip Green has been granted an injunction against The Daily Telegraph, preventing the publication of allegations against him. In a front-page article today, Claire Newell reveals that he made payments to five people who accused him of "sexual harassment and racial abuse". Green is not named in the story, and he is described only in general terms as a leading businessman.

Under the conditions of the interim Court of Appeal injunction, Green's identity cannot be published in England or Wales. Similar high-profile injunctions in recent years have involved Ryan Giggs (who was named by The Sunday Herald in Scotland) and Elton John (whose injunction remains in force, despite the National Enquirer naming him in the US).

Friday, 19 October 2018

พฤษภา-พฤษภา

May-May
Black Diary
Charnvit Kasetsiri's พฤษภา-พฤษภา: สังคม-รัฐไทย กับความรุนแรงทางการเมือง was published in 2013. The book examines the military massacres of May 1992 and May 2010, including rare reproductions of newspaper coverage from 1992. Charnvit's other books on Thailand's modern history include October 14, 1973 Student Uprising (บันทึกประวัติศาสตร์ 14 ตุลา) and October 1973 to October 1976: A History of State Violence in Thailand (ตุลา-ตุลา: สังคม-รัฐไทย กับความรุนแรงทางการเมือง).

พฤษภา-พฤษภา also features a VCD of a documentary (พฤษภาทมิฬ) originally released on VHS in 1992. The documentary is most notable for its subversive soundtrack: footage of soldiers beating protesters is accompanied by an ironic Ad Carabao song (ผู้ทน) praising the government, providing an intentional counterpoint to the massacre footage.

Gigantrix Extinction

Gigantrix Extinction
Gigantrix Extinction
Gigantrix Extinction, the debut album by Thai thrash metal band Killing Fields, was released in 2012 on CD and cassette. The cassette version is limited to 100 numbered copies (mine being number 18). The two formats have different album covers, both of which are drawings by Dissolute inspired by Neal Ulevich's photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The US punk band Dead Kennedys used the photo as the cover for their single Holiday in Cambodia.)

Gigantrix Extension includes the song 6th October, which is about the state-orchestrated killing of students during the 1976 massacre. Earlier this year, Killing Fields performed at จะ4ปีแล้วนะ, a concert marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Doc Club Theater

Mundane History
By the Time It Gets Dark
Anocha Suwichakornpong's films Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก) and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) will be shown at Bangkok's Warehouse 30 this month and next month, at screenings organised by Doc Club Theater. They will play as a double bill on 22nd October and 3rd November, followed by individual screenings on consecutive evenings: By the Time It Gets Dark on 25th October, and Mundane History on 26th October. By the Time It Gets Dark will also be shown on 11th November. Almost exactly a year ago, a proposed screening of By the Time It Gets Dark at the same venue was inexplicably cancelled by Thai police.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Ghost:2561

Ghost:2561
Blue
Ghost:2561, a series of video screenings at galleries throughout Bangkok, began yesterday and runs until 28th October. (2561 in the Buddhist calendar equates to 2018 in the Gregorian calendar.) The event includes Blue (ตะวันดับ), a new video by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in which his muse, Jenjira Pongpas, falls asleep in front of a series of theatrical backdrops. As Jenjira sleeps, a flame appears, and gradually the entire scene becomes engulfed in a blazing fire.

The liminality between sleeping, dreaming, and wakefulness is a recurrent theme in Apichatpong's work. He filmed his boyfriend asleep on three consecutive nights for Teem, and Dilbar shows a construction worker sleeping. Sleep is also central to Apichatpong's most recent feature film, Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น), and his segment of the new portmanteau film Ten Years Thailand (Song of the City). The fire in Blue has echoes of his Primitive installation project, such as the burning football in Phantoms of Nabua.

Blue, showing at Bangkok's Gallery VER, is projected onto a large glass screen, hanging in the centre of the darkened gallery. This produces reflections of the images on the walls and floor, highlighting the film's theatricality and demonstrating Apichatpong's continued fascination with (and mastery of) the effects of light.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Jay Schneider, has been revised for 2018. The new edition, updated by Ian Haydn Smith, features eleven new films, and eleven titles have been deleted. 1001 Movies was first published in 2003, and has been updated annually ever since. It was completely revised in 2013, though other editions (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017) featured only minor changes.

The new films in the 2018 edition are: The Handmaiden; Lady Macbeth; Lady Bird; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Call Me by Your Name; Mother!; Blade Runner 2049; Get Out; and Black Panther. While these choices are all justified though predictable, the documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time is a more surprising addition. The deleted films are: No Man's Land; The Consequences of Love; Tsotsi; Lincoln; The Revenant; Hell or High Water; The Jungle Book (the Jon Favreau version); Jackie; Manchester by the Sea; I, Daniel Blake; and Arrival.

PDF

Sunday, 7 October 2018

"The Washington Times
retracts it in its entirety..."

The Washington Times
The Washington Times has reached an out-of-court settlement with Aaron Rich, after he sued the newspaper for defamation. Rich's brother, Seth, became the subject of a conspiracy theory after his unsolved murder in 2016. It was alleged, without any evidence, that Seth Rich had leaked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks.

In a Washington Times op-ed published on 2nd March (page B3), James Lyons stated the conspiracy theory as a fact, implicating both Seth and Aaron Rich in the DNC email leak: "Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information." [Aside from its defamatory nature, the sentence has at least three grammatical errors.]

The newspaper has since deleted the article (headlined "More cover-up questions") from its website. It has also issued a retraction, disavowing the op-ed's allegations about the Rich brothers: "The Washington Times now does not have any basis to believe any part of that statement to be true, and The Washington Times retracts it in its entirety."

PDF

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Internet Universality Beyond Words

Internet Universality Beyond Words
Watch!
Watch!
The Simpsons
Neal Ulevich
Internet Universality Beyond Words features a handful of videos and installations commenting on internet freedom in Thailand. The mini exhibition opened on 28th September at TCDC's new Bangkok premises, the converted Grand Postal Building, and runs until 14th October. (TCDC moved from its smaller Emporium location last year.)

The centrepiece is Watch!, a dramatic paper sculpture by Wee Viraporn. From a distance, it's a pixelated representation of Prayuth Chan-ocha's eyes, implying that the Prime Minister is monitoring Thai citizens' online activities. On closer inspection, each pixel is a cube featuring pictures of Thai military and junta controversies, such as the GT200 corruption scandal and the cover of Time's 2nd July issue (a Prayuth interview that the magazine's distributors withheld from Thailand).

The most interesting work is much less conspicuous: a video playing on an iPhone. This short film, by Tewprai Bualoi, is a montage of online memes taken from cartoons and news clips (including extracts from Charnvit Kasetsiri's documentary 14 ตุลา), and even its title is a meme: Friendship Ended with Mudasir Now Salman Is My Best Friend (มิตรภาพสิ้นสุดกับ Mudasir ตอนนี้ Salman คือเพื่อนที่ดีที่สุดของฉัน).

Tewprai's film uses codes and metaphors that refer to the 6th October 1976 massacre. A photo of director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, the Red Bull logo, and the Scout emblem refer respectively to Nawaphon, the Red Gaurs, and the Village Scouts (the three militia groups that instigated the violence). It also includes a clip from The Simpsons (broadcast on 1st December 1996) of Bart hitting Homer with a chair, in reference to Neal Ulevich's photograph of a man preparing to attack a corpse in the same way. There are also split-second shots of the gate in Nakhon Pathom from which two pro-democracy activists were hanged.

video

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Thai Politics III

Thai Politics III
Thai Politics III
Miti Ruangkritya's Thai Politics III is part of his Thai Politics series inspired by Thai political polarisation. The exhibition catalogue, in an edition of 500 numbered copies (of which mine is number 176), features reproductions of defaced posters from the 2011 election, in which Yingluck Shinawatra defeated Abhisit Vejjajiva. The cover has been die-cut to simulate a slashed poster of Abhisit. Manit Sriwanichpoom's series The Election of Hatred (การเลือกตั้งแห่งความเกลียดชัง) also featured photographs of defaced 2011 election posters.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Concept, Context, Contestation

Concept, Context, Contestation
Blue October
Loss of Hearing
History Class
The Election of Hatred
The Concept, Context, Contestation: Art and the Collective in Southeast Asia (มโนทัศน์ บริบท และการต่อต้าน: ศิลปะและส่วนรวมในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้) exhibition was held at BACC in 2014. The scholarly exhibition catalogue, edited by Iola Lenzi, features essays on art in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The plates section includes rare reproductions of Vasan Sitthiket's Blue October (ตุลาลัย), recreating photographs of the 1976 Thammasat massacre; Paphonsak Lao-or's Loss of Hearing (สูญเสียการได้ยิน), commenting on lèse-majesté by self-censoring books on page 112; Sutee Kunavichayanont's History Class (ห้องเรียนประวัติศาสตร์), with sensitive historical events carved onto school desks; and Manit Sriwanichpoom's The Election of Hatred (การเลือกตั้งแห่งความเกลียดชัง), defaced 2011 election posters similar to Miti Ruangkritya's Thai Politics III.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide:
The Modern Era

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide: The Modern Era
Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide was first published in the US in 1969, and its final edition appeared forty-five years later. That edition was reprinted last year, with a new subtitle (The Modern Era). Misleadingly, the cover claims "300+ NEW ENTRIES", though as Maltin makes clear in his introduction, there are "no new reviews in this volume."

The book includes capsule reviews of films released since 1965, along with selected older classics. Most pre-1965 reviews were moved to a different book, the Classic Movie Guide, though this resulted in some duplication and inconsistency. Many pre-1965 films are reviewed in both The Modern Era and the Classic Movie Guide, and The Modern Era's cross-referencing to the Classic Movie Guide seems arbitrary. Also, foreign-language films are listed only by their English titles, with no alternative title index.

The annual film guide is now a thing of the past, as the last remaining example, the Radio Times Guide to Films 2019, had its publication cancelled this week. (The Guide to Films 2018, published last year, is now the final edition.) Maltin's closest UK equivalent, Leslie Halliwell's phone-directory-sized Film Guide, ended ingnominiously in 2008 as The Movies that Matter. The superb Time Out Film Guide ceased publication in 2012. The Virgin Film Guide and Empire Film Guide, both offering longer reviews of fewer films, ended in 2005 and 2007, respectively.