Thursday, 28 July 2016

Game Changers

Game Changers
Game Changers: The Evolution Of Advertising, edited by Peter Russell and Senta Slingerland, features 150 advertising campaigns from (approximately) the past sixty years. Publisher Taschen calls it "the first definitive history of how advertising got from there to here, and where it’s going next." It's not a definitive history, though it is an excellent survey of classic ad campaigns. It was published to coincide with an exhibition in 2013 organised by the Cannes Lions advertising festival.

Among the selected television commercials, billboard posters, and display ads are examples of effective slogans (such as Nike's "Just Do It" from 1988) and iconic images (including the conceptual Silk Cut campaign that began in 1984). There are also political broadcasts, from the nuclear apocalypse of Lyndon Johnson's Daisy Girl (1964) to Ronald Reagan's optimistic Prouder, Stronger, Better (1984; also known as "Morning in America").

Global campaigns, like Coca-Cola's Hilltop (1971) featuring the jingle "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke", are included, alongside recent viral marketing such as Cadbury's Gorilla (2007). There are also commercials made by film directors such as Ridley Scott (Apple's 1984) and Jonathan Glazer (the acclaimed 1999 Surfer ad for Guinness).

100 Ideas That Changed Art

100 Ideas That Changed Art
100 Ideas That Changed Art, by Michael Bird, is part of Laurence King's 100 Ideas That Changed... series. Other titles include Advertising, Photography, Film, Architecture, and Graphic Design. Every book in the series has the same format: 100 chapters, each with a single-page essay and a full-page illustration.

The book's 100 ideas include various forms of art (frescoes, mosaics, printmaking, photography, performance), artistic media (clay, stained glass, oil, watercolour), and traditional classifications (still life, portrait, landscape). The chapters on technical aspects - such as frames, canvas, welding, and plastics - are the most interesting, as (unlike the other subjects) they rarely feature in conventional art histories.

The chapters are organised by theme, rather than as a series of 'isms': "I tried... to get rid of every single 'ism', although one or two resisted paraphrase to the bitter end." As the author recognises, each chapter is a capsule summary of a vast subject: "each idea has its own distinct history in art. Many of them have been the subject of books in their own right", though unfortunately (unlike the other 100 Ideas... titles) there is no bibliography.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

"I cannot accept this draft..."

Abhisit Vejajjiva, leader of the Democrat Party and former prime minister, has announced his opposition to the military junta's proposed new constitution. At a press conference today, he said: "I cannot accept this draft." He made clear that he was speaking in a personal capacity, as party politics has been outlawed since the 2014 coup.

Specifically, Abhisit criticised article 102 of the charter, which calls for a fully appointed Senate. (Thailand's 1997 constitution introduced an elected Senate for the first time in the country's history, though under the military's 2007 constitution the Senate became 50% appointed.) Earlier this year, Abhisit said: "The draft charter is retrogressive compared to the 2007 charter".

A referendum on the issue will be held on 7th August. As in the 2007 constitution referendum, a 'yes' vote is being equated with a faster return to democracy, though coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha has already delayed his 'election roadmap' multiple times. At today's press conference, Abhisit rejected the idea that a 'no' vote would exacerbate Thailand's political crisis: "if the draft is rejected, the country will have a better opportunity."

The proposed constitution has also been rejected by Pheu Thai. The Party issued a statement in April calling for a 'no' vote: "Pheu Thai Party requests that the people come out and vote to "reject" the draft charter that does not recognize the people's power and lacks democratic principles." (That press release was written before the Referendum Act came into effect, since when campaigns against the charter have been effectively banned.)

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Serenity Of Madness

The Serenity Of Madness
The Serenity Of Madness
Tropical Malady
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Phantoms Of Nabua
The Serenity Of Madness is the first major museum retrospective for Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and the inaugural exhibition of Chiang Mai's new MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum. The exhibition, curated by Gridthiya Gaweewong, opened on 3rd July and runs until 10th September. A catalogue, Apichatpong Weerasethakul Sourcebook, will be published in September.

The exhibition begins with Ghost Teen, an enormous photograph (also used on the exhibition poster) filling an entire two-storey wall. In the first gallery are production materials from Apichatpong's archive, including scripts and sketches for Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Twenty-one of Apichatpong's short films and videos are shown in the other galleries, including Ashes (filmed on a LomoKino camera), Vampire (a faux-documentary horror film), 0116643225059 (a student film made in Chicago, previously screened at Tomyam Pladib), and Windows (Apichatpong's first work shot on video, previously shown at Indy Spirit Project). There are also three short videos from his Primitive installation: An Evening Shoot, Nabua, and the spellbinding Phantoms Of Nabua.


Feeling The 1990s
Copulate With Love
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook
The MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art opened this month in Chiang Mai (on 3rd July), and its inaugural exhibition is an Apichatpong Weerasethakul retrospective. The Museum's permanent collection, shown in an exhibition titled Feeling The 1990s, is drawn from the Pipitmaya Collection of Thai and Asian contemporary art.

Feeling The 1990s includes early works by many of Thailand's leading contemporary artists. Manit Sriwanichpoom is represented by one of his 'Pink Man' photographs. There are two installations by Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, who is now more renowned as a video artist. The collection also includes a seminal painting (in the literal sense), Kosit Juntaratip's Copulate With Love (1994), which is labelled as "Ejaculation on canvas (Kosit's spermatozoa)".

Despite being the third major contemporary art museum to open in Thailand in the past decade, after BACC in 2008 and MoCA in 2012, MAIIAM is arguably the country's only museum dedicated to truly contemporary art. In contrast, BACC regularly hosts exhibitions with traditional, royalist themes, and MoCA's conservative permanent collection is dominated by religious paintings and bronzes, without any multimedia or installation art.

MAIIAM's atmosphere is also much more relaxed than the rather austere BACC and MoCA. Photography is forbidden in BACC's main galleries, and MoCA has a long list of strict rules (for example: no pens, no large sketchbooks, no sitting on the floor). MAIIAM is not only Chiang Mai's premier art venue, it's also one of the most exciting developments in Thailand's art scene for a long time.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

100 Ideas That Changed Advertising

100 Ideas That Changed Advertising
100 Ideas That Changed Advertising, by Richard Veksner, is part of Laurence King's 100 Ideas That Changed... series. Others include Photography, Film, Architecture, and Graphic Design. Every book in the series follows the same format: 100 chapters, each with a single-page essay and a full-page illustration.

The book includes chapters on aspects of the advertising industry, marketing concepts, and a wide range of advertising formats. Veksner isn't as authoritative as the other authors in the series, though his book is useful because there are few other general guides to advertising history. (Veksner strikes an appropriate balance between the industry-focused Adland, and the image-based A History Of Advertising and Game Changers: The Evolution Of Advertising.)

100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design

100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design
100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, is part of Laurence King's 100 Ideas That Changed... series. Others include Photography, Film, Architecture, and Advertising. Every book in the series has the same format: 100 chapters, each with a single-page essay and a full-page illustration.

Heller and Vienne's 100 ideas are dominated by design elements (such as pointing fingers), and the selection seems rather arbitrary. There's surprisingly little material on digital design, though the book has extensive coverage of print media. Heller is one of the leading historians of graphic design, and his many previous books include Illustration: A Visual History.

100 Ideas That Changed Architecture

100 Ideas That Changed Architecture
100 Ideas That Changed Architecture, by Richard Weston, is part of Laurence King's 100 Ideas That Changed... series. Others include Photography, Film, Advertising, and Graphic Design.

Every book in the series follows the same format: 100 chapters, each with a single-page essay and a full-page illustration. What sets this book apart from others in the series is its excellent annotated bibliography.

Weston's 100 entries include architectural features (columns, arches, domes), building materials (brick, iron, steel, glass), and "more idea-like ideas" ('less is more', 'form follows function'). There are also essays on architectural styles, especially the major trends of the twentieth century, though the book's coverage is more technical than aesthetic.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Art Of Cutting

The Art Of Cutting
The Art Of Cutting For Paper, Cardboard, Wood & Other Materials: Tradition & New Techniques, by Jean-Charles Trebbi, was originally published in French as L'Art De La Decoupe: Design & Decoration. The book begins with a brief guide to the various traditional forms of paper cutting: 'canviet' (French), 'Scherenschnitte' (Swiss), 'jianzhi' (Chinese), 'kirigami' and 'katagami' (Japanese), 'wycinanki' (Polish), 'papel picado' (Mexican), and 'sanjih' (Indian).

The majority of the book consists of profiles of contemporary artists who create cut-out sculptures, furniture, and architecture, though some interesting historical examples are also included (such as a magazine from 1889 illustrating "Decoupage d'une orange"). Trebbi also discusses silhouettes, shadow puppets, and pop-up books. (These are covered more extensively in E Nevill Jackson's Silhouette: Notes & Dictionary, Emma Rutherford's Silhouette: The Art of the Shadow, Eileen Blumenthal's Puppetry: A World History, and Trebbi's The Art Of Pop-Up.)

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

New Democracy Movement

New Democracy Movement
Three members of the New Democracy Movement were arrested on Sunday and accused of violating the Referendum Act. Article 61 of the Act states that "anyone who publishes text, images or sound... that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way" will face up to ten years in jail.

The New Democracy Movement is an anti-coup organisation that has been campaigning against the military's proposed constitution. They have been treading a legal tightrope by distributing t-shirts calling for people to 'vote no' in the referendum to be held on 7th August.

The NDM members were arrested in Ratchaburi after police found copies of anti-charter booklets in their car. Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn has said that one of the NDM's booklets (a fold-out poster listing seven reasons to vote no) is in violation of the Act.

A journalist from Prachatai who was travelling with the NDM members was also arrested. They were all detained in custody on Sunday night, and granted bail yesterday. Police searched Prachatai's office today.


Club Friday: To Be Continued

GMM25, a digital terrestrial TV channel owned by GMM Grammy, has been fined 50,000 baht by the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission after viewers complained about the violent content of its soap opera, Club Friday: To Be Continued (เพื่อนรักเพื่อนร้าย). The episode in question (the final episode in the fifteen-part series) was broadcast on 3rd May, and included a scene depicting the rape of a female character.

The rape sequence occurred at the beginning of the episode, which was broadcast at 8pm. The attacker was shown pinning the woman down, while three others filmed the assault on their smartphones. The scene, which did not include any nudity, mostly consisted of reaction shots of the man's accomplices.

The NBTC judged that the episode violated article 37 of the Broadcasting Act, which forbids the transmission of immoral or corrupting material. However, the small fine (equivalent to only $1,500) is merely tokenistic, as GMM Grammy is Thailand's largest media conglomerate.

Lakorn (soap operas) dominate the prime-time schedules of Thailand's terrestrial television channels. The most popular series are broadcast every night after the 8pm royal news bulletins on channels 3, 5, and 7. (Channels 5 and 7 are owned by the army, and soap operas about soldiers have been used as military propaganda; Thai television is dominated by soap operas, gameshows, and variety shows.)

Nicknamed 'nam nao' ('dirty water') for their worthless content, these soap operas are melodramatic to the point of absurdity, and often focus on a standard 'tob-joob' ('slap and kiss') plot: two women cat-fighting over the love of a 'hi-so' (upper class) man. Episodes can last for as long as two hours, and (like Brazilian 'telenovelas') a series typically runs for a few months.

Lakorn rely on inappropriate stereotypes, such as camp gay men as recurring characters. The primary motivations of the female characters are defeating their love rivals and marrying their rich boyfriends. Rape and domestic violence are increasingly common plot points, and the male perpetrators are often forgiven for these transgressions in the inevitable happy ending. (Similarly, sometimes even Thai comedies feature domestic abuse, with punches accompanied by comic sound effects.)


Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Art Of Illustrated Maps

The Art Of Illustrated Maps
The Art Of Illustrated Maps: A Complete Guide To Creative Mapmaking's History, Process & Inspiration is "the first book ever to fully explore the world of conceptual, "imaginative" mapping." (Map, by Rosie Pickles and Tim Cooke, also includes examples of illustrated maps.) These creative maps are distinct from the scientific field of cartography: "a line was beginning to form between accurate maps and artistic maps."

The book is concerned with the second of these two branches: "Like geographic maps, the creation of illustrated maps also has a long history, spanning nearly two thousand years, and this subject matter also lacks significant published historical or analytical review. The Art of Illustrated Maps charts previously unexplored ground as it traces the birth and evolution of the highly specialized order of cartographic art known as illustrated maps."

Author John Roman quotes Ptolemy's definition of 'chorography' in his Geographia: "The chorographic map artist's concern is to draw or paint a "likeness" of the place, and not to concern himself with exact positions or sizes." He appropriates Ptolemy's term to refer to all forms of illustrated, artistic map-making, and charts its history alongside a portfolio of contemporary examples.

As Roman explains, "absolutely no books at all existed on the subject of maps until Lloyd Brown's The Story of Maps was published". Brown's book was indeed the first guide to cartographic history, and covers Ptolemy, the Middle Ages, and Renaissance map-making in more detail than Roman's brief account.

Leo Bagrow's History Of Cartography is the most comprehensive single-volume history of the subject, and Roman cites Bagrow's observation that, during the eighteenth century, cartographic maps "ceased to be works of art." Maps (like anatomical studies of the same period) became more technical and less artistic as scientific accuracy improved, though a parallel trend saw an increase in the creativity of illustrated maps. Roman's coverage of this development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is his most interesting and original material.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

100 Years Of Architectural Drawing

100 Years Of Architectural Drawing
Le Modulor
Vitruvian Man
100 Years Of Architectural Drawing 1900-2000, by Neil Bingham, is "a world survey of architectural drawings of the twentieth century." 300 drawings are included, all printed as full-page illustrations with extended captions.

Most of the key modern architects are represented; one of the highlights is an early version of Le Corbusier's anthropometric proportional design Le Modulor (1945), inspired by Leonardo's Vitruvian Man. Laurence King has published a series of 100 Years Of... books, including 100 Years Of Tattoos.


Building: 3,000 Years Of Design, Engineering, & Construction (published by Phaidon) is a definitive history of "building engineering," the umbrella term author Bill Addis uses to describe a combination of structural engineering and building design. The authoritative and comprehensive text is accompanied by hundreds of diagrams and other illustrations from historical sources.

The clarity of the explanation, organisation, and layout make the subject accessible without simplifying the technical details. Appendices include timelines of iron and concrete, and an excellent bibliographic essay ("further reading material on... construction materials and certain building types").

The Course Of Landscape Architecture

The Course Of Landscape Architecture
The Course Of Landscape Architecture: A History Of Our Designs On The Natural World, From Prehistory To The Present (published by Thames & Hudson) is a survey of more than 3,000 years of mankind's shaping of the natural landscape. Such an ambitious narrative can't be covered comprehensively in 300 pages, so the book alternates between general summaries of major themes and detailed case studies of specific sites.

Christophe Girot provides a fascinating overview of our attitudes to our environment over the centuries, linking them to major scientific discoveries and artistic innovations: "Landscape is the crucible of human actions and reactions towards nature, and landscapes are the product of a deep cultural revolution that occurred at the dawn of human settlement 9,000 years ago." He argues, therefore, that we must "achieve a more respectful relationship towards our world, by giving a greater place to nature in society."

The Thames & Hudson Dictionary
Of Fashion & Fashion Designers

The Thames & Hudson Dictionary Of Fashion & Fashion Designers
The Thames & Hudson Dictionary Of Fashion & Fashion Designers, by Georgina O'Hara Callan, was first published as The Encyclopaedia Of Fashion in 1986. Fifty new entries were added by Cat Glover in 2008. The Dictionary includes more than 1,000 entries covering designers, clothing, fabrics, and the media, followed by an extensive bibliography. Most entries are a paragraph or two in length, though a few run for more than a page, the longest being those for Coco Chanel and Charles Worth.

This is one of several authoritative Thames & Hudson dictionaries, including Photography, Art Terms, and Graphic Design & Designers. It's also part of their long-running World of Art series.

The three-volume Encyclopedia Of Clothing & Fashion (edited by Valerie Steele) is a more comprehensive reference, and The Fashion Book has larger illustrations, though the Dictionary was the first A-Z guide to fashion designers. It covers the same period as The History Of Modern Fashion (by Daniel James Cole and Nancy Deihl), from the mid-nineteenth century (the sewing machine and the House of Worth) onwards.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Encyclopedia Of Antique Carpets

The Encyclopedia Of Antique Carpets
The Ardebil Carpet
The Encyclopedia Of Antique Carpets: Twenty-Five Centuries Of Weaving is the most comprehensive reference book on the history of carpet and rug weaving. It was written by veteran carpet dealer Abraham Levi Moheban, edited by his son David Moheban, and published in two heavy volumes (A-K and L-Z) with an illustrated slipcase.

The Encyclopedia features 600 entries covering global carpet production, with 850 carpets illustrated in colour. These include arguably the most famous Persian carpet, the Ardebil Safavid carpet at the V&A; and the world's most expensive carpet, another Safavid example, which was auctioned for more than $33 million in 2013.

As the author writes in his preface, the Encyclopedia contains "a much larger corpus of sources and images than any other book previously published [on this subject]... There is no comparable book available and there is no prospect of another similar." The only potentially comparable work is Oriental Rugs, by Peter F Stone, though Stone's book has shorter, dictionary-style entries, and lower-resolution images. By contrast, the Encyclopedia is much more extensive (over 600 pages), and has higher-quality photographs.

Oriental Rugs & Carpets: A Comprehensive Study (by Arthur Urbane Dilley) was one of the first histories of oriental rugs in English. Oriental Rugs: A Comprehensive Guide (by Murray L Eiland) is an excellent modern history of the subject. (The second edition has additional coverage of Indian rugs, and better illustrations.) A History of Textile Art (by Agnes Geijer, illustrated in black and white) and 5,000 Years Of Textiles (a definitive study, edited by Jennifer Harris) are general historical surveys of textiles.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


La Dame A La Collerette
The exhibition 3/๓๓ opened at Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center in Bangkok on 24th June, and runs until 17th July. Only three artworks are included, though they are all by major European modern artists: Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and David Hockney.

A five-minute video is projected at the entrance to the exhibition, and viewing it is obligatory: an attendant asks us to watch the video, and "then I will take you to the masterpiece room." As we are escorted into the gallery, another attendant reminds us: "This is the masterpiece room. Please don't take photos".

What treasures await us inside? Unfortunately, the exhibition is an anticlimax. The three works are hardly masterpieces, and they are not even paintings. They are all prints: a Picasso linocut, and Renoir and Hockney lithographs. The Picasso print is La Dame A La Collerette, which was previously shown (without all this unjustified fanfare) at The Art Of Time in 2008.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Tate Modern: The Handbook

Tate Modern: The Handbook
Tate Modern: The Handbook has been updated in a fourth edition to reflect this year's opening of the Tate's extension, Switch House. Tate Modern opened in 2000, and has since become one of the world's greatest museums of modern art. Positioned opposite St Paul's Cathedral in London, the Tate is a secular cathedral, and its vast Turbine Hall has inspired a series of enormous sculptures and installations.

The guidebook, edited by Matthew Gale, features a foreword by Tate director Nicholas Serota and an essay on the history of the Tate ("FROM SUGAR CUBE TO WHITE CUBE") by Frances Morris. Previous editions profiled 100 modern and contemporary artists, though this edition has been expanded to 300.

Each artist profile is illustrated by a work from the Tate's permanent collection, including Chris Ofili's The Upper Room (previously installed at the Victoria Miro Gallery, and purchased despite Ofili being a Tate trustee), Pablo Picasso's La Danse (described by John Richardson as "one of Picasso's most profound and mysterious paintings"), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's video installation Primitive.

Independence Day: Resurgence (MX4D)

Independence Day: Resurgence
Independence Day: Resurgence
Independence Day: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich's sequel to Independence Day, is another of the director's SF/disaster movies, though it lacks the wow factor of the original film's White House destruction sequence. As Jeff Goldblum says in Resurgence: "They like to get the landmarks." (Goldblum's role is similar to his character in Jurassic Park, and an accountant played by Nicolas Wright is clearly modelled on the lawyer from that film.)

Resurgence is screening in Bangkok in the MX4D format, which is a similar technology to South Korea's 4DX. Like 4DX, MX4D features motion-controlled seats, flashing lights, water vapour, wind, smoke, etc. The main difference is that MX4D (which was developed in the United States) has an additional motorised effect that pokes the underside of the seats.

MX4D is currently only available in screen 10 at SF World. Like Cinerama, 3D, HFR, Dolby Atmos, and Aroma-Scope (and ScreenX at EmQuartier's CineArt, screen 2), it's a gimmick to lure audiences back to the cinema.

I Know Why The Rebel Sings

I Know Why The Rebel Sings
Fifteen photographs have been removed from Newsha Tavakolian's exhibition I Know Why The Rebel Sings in Singapore. The images were part of a portfolio of portraits of female soldiers from the Kurdish group YPJ, fighting against Islamic State.

The photographs had been published in Time magazine on 20th April 2015 and distributed in Singapore, though they were censored from the exhibition by the Media Development Authority. The exhibition opened on 22nd June, at TheatreWorks, and will close on 9th July.


Peace TV

Peace TV's licence has been suspended for thirty days by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. The state media regulator accused the channel (operated by the red-shirt UDD movement) of transmitting content that undermined national security. The NBTC did not clarify the exact nature of the offending material, though its verdict was based on an episode of the เข้าใจตรงกันนะ programme broadcast on 21st March.

Peace TV's licence was revoked by the NBTC last year, though that decision was later overturned by the Administrative Court. At the same time, the station's production offices were raided when soldiers and police officers attempted to prevent it from interviewing former Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. (They were apparently unaware that the interview was a repeat rather than a live transmission.)

Friday, 1 July 2016

เมื่อครั้งเสด็จฯ ทอดพระเนตร ภาพยนตร์

เมื่อครั้งเสด็จฯ ทอดพระเนตร ภาพยนตร์
Lawrence Of Arabia
Later this year, the Scala cinema in Bangkok will screen seven classic films to celebrate King Rama IX's seventy-year reign, in a season titled เมื่อครั้งเสด็จฯ ทอดพระเนตร ภาพยนตร์. The selected films were all apparently seen by the King when they were originally released in the 1950s and 1960s.

The season includes Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho (showing on 9th October), and two historical epics: Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (4th December) and David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia (5th December). The Scala, the last of Bangkok's movie palaces, is the ideal venue for this series of vintage classics. The concept is similar to the excellent Festival Of Classic Movies at Lido in 2007.