28 August 2020

Do or Die

Do or Die
The Last Monument
Do or Die, Headache Stencil’s latest solo exhibition, opened at the FCCT in Bangkok on 31st July. (His previous exhibitions include Uncensored and Thailand Casino last year, and Propaganda Children’s Day earlier this year.) Do or Die was originally scheduled to close today, then extended until 18th September, though it will now close on 10th September. Some of the artworks were changed after the first few weeks, replaced with more directly satirical pieces.

The Last Monument is certainly the most provocative work on show: it depicts Bangkok’s iconic Democracy Monument, with the constitution replaced by a crown. This commentary on the power structures underlying Thai politics reminded me of the ending of the short film Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน): an artist unsuccessfully attempts to draw Democracy Monument, and tears up his sketch to reveal a drawing of a Rama V statue on the page beneath.

Other artists have also appropriated Democracy Monument. Tang Chang drew rifles that formed Calligrammes of the Monument, indicating the military’s involvement in Thai politics. Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s short film Karaoke: Think Kindly (คาราโอเกะ เพลงแผ่เมตตา) ends with a vintage photograph of the Monument under construction, symbolising Thailand’s incomplete transition to democracy. Citizen (ผู้อาศัย), a music video by Hockhacker (who was arrested this week after joining recent pro-democracy protests) shows the Monument on fire. In Thunska Pansittivorakul’s film Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), it appears upside down, a metaphor for the topsy-turvy state of Thai politics.