Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Temporal Topography

Temporal Topography
Hocus Pocus
MAIIAM, Thailand’s most prestigious contemporary art venue, has expanded the space dedicated to its permanent collection. In addition to Feeling the 1990s, its more recent acquisitions are now also on show. These works, all dating from the last decade, are being exhibited under the collective title Temporal Topography: MAIIAM’s New Acquisitions; from 2010 to Present (แดนชั่วขณะ: ศิลปะสะสมใหม่เอี่ยมจาก พ.ศ. ๒๕๕๓ จนถึงปัจจุบัน). The exhibition opened on 30th March in Chiang Mai, and will run for exactly one year.

Highlights include Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s video Planking, in which a man lies down incongruously in public spaces while everyone around him stands for the national anthem. Chulayarnnon’s short, silent film is a characteristically satirical commentary on nationalist ideology and social conformity. It also addresses specific instances of state violence, as one of the filming locations, Thammasat University’s football pitch, is associated with the 6th October 1976 massacre. Students were forced to lie down on the pitch on 6th October, and Planking recreates this with an identical pose on the same spot.

Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s Hocus Pocus (เผาเล่น ที่จริง) also commemorates an act of political violence. The installation includes a cracked pane of glass from CentralWorld, a shopping mall situated near the main red-shirt protest in 2010. There are bullet holes in the glass, physical reminders of the military massacre that took place. (Similarly, Ruangsak’s sculpture No Country Like Home also utilises a bullet-ridden artefact, namely a tablet from Krue Se Mosque, to memorialise another military massacre.)

Patani Semasa

Patani Semasa
Remember at Tak-Bai
No Country Like Home
Patani Semasa: An Exhibition on Contemporary Art from the Golden Peninsula (ปาตานี ร่วมสมัย: นิทรรศการศิลปะจากภูมิภาคปาตานี), first held at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai in 2017, was shown in Malaysia last year. It was considered too sensitive to publish a catalogue during the Thai exhibition, as several works address state violence in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, and the catalogue was therefore published in Malaysia. It includes an essay by lead curator Gridthiya Gaweewong and full-page reproductions of each artwork, with extended captions. The fold-out cover features a timeline of the region’s political and cultural history.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Photophobia, Jakkhai Siributr’s 78, and Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh’s Violence in Tak Bai (ความรุนแรงที่ตากใบ) all address the 2004 Tak Bai massacre, a tragedy also commemorated by Zakariya Amataya’s Report from a Partitioned Village (รายงานจากหมู่บ้านที่ถูกปิดล้อม) at Khonkaen Manifesto (ขอนแก่น แมนิเฟสโต้). Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s No Country Like Home is a reminder of another 2004 massacre, at Krue Se Mosque; like his Hocus Pocus (เผาเล่น ที่จริง) installation, which dealt with the 2010 political violence in Bangkok, it incorporates an artefact bearing the physical scars of the attack.

Sunday, 7 July 2019


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. The concert, which ran for an hour longer than scheduled, ended with a fantastic live performance of My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี).


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.