23 June 2024

‘Guilty Landscapes’


The Dutch artist Armando coined the phrase ‘guilty landscapes’ to describe tranquil spaces that bore silent witness to past violence. Thai artists and directors have produced work that echoes Armando’s concept, even though they were not directly inspired by it. For his Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) exhibition, for example, Pachara Piyasongsoot painted bucolic landscapes with traumatic histories linked to the Cold War. (Pachara was not initially aware of Armando’s concept, but when we discussed it, he immediately identified with it.)

Several Thai films also depict guilty landscapes whose violent legacies are connected to the Cold War. Taiki Sakpisit’s Seeing in the Dark, Thunska Pansittivorakul’s Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถงลงบญม) were filmed in Khao Kho, Santikhiri, and Nabua, respectively, all of which are locations previously associated with anti-Communist violence. (Thai Cinema Uncensored includes an analysis of guilty landscapes in Thai films.)

Other films by Thai directors have evoked sites of more recent state violence. Taiki’s A Ripe Volcano, Thunska’s Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), Panya Zhu’s White Bird (นกตัวนั้นยังสบายดีไหม), and Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Zombie Citizens all include shots of the Royal Hotel in Bangkok, which was used as a field hospital during the ‘Black May’ massacre in 1992. Taiki’s Dark Was the Night and Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s Planking were filmed at Thammasat University, where a massacre took place in 1976. Weerapat’s Nostalgia, and Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap’s Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน), refer to multiple guilty landscapes.

The artists and directors discussed so far have all used the concept of guilty landscapes to draw attention to state violence against pro-democracy protesters or suspected Communists. Charit Pusiri, on the other hand, is an artist from the opposite end of the political spectrum: his work promotes a royalist-nationalist ideology. For his Remembrance (รฦก) exhibition in 2013, he created composite photographs that show carefree present-day scenes juxtaposed with historical images of warfare and fallen soldiers. These split-screen compositions are the most direct illustrations of the guilty landscape concept in Thai art.

0 comment(s):

Post a Comment