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.
01 October 2018
01 August 2018
The third part of Ing Kanjanavanit's epic documentary Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์) opened last week at Cinema Oasis. Chapter three, Singing at Funerals (เพลงแห่ศพ), covers the PDRC demonstrations from 15th to 26th January 2014, when Suthep Thaugsuban escalated the protest with his 'Shutdown Bangkok' campaign. The forthcoming chapter four, Becoming One (เป็นหนึ่งเดียว), will cover the PDRC's sabotaging of the 2014 general election.
Singing at Funerals follows the same format as the first two chapters, How We Became Superheroes (เมื่อเราเป็นยอดมนุษย์) and Shutdown Bangkok (ชัตดาวน์ประเทศไทย). Filmed on Ing's iPhone, it features excerpts from PDRC rallies (including speeches by Vasan Sitthiket and Ing herself) and extensive footage of street processions. The coverage ultimately becomes excessive: the camera follows Suthep for half an hour as he collects donations from an endless line of protesters. There are also numerous shots of Thai flags being waved, and this fetishisation of the national flag has been a consistent feature of Bangkok Joyride.
23 March 2018
I Am You (ฉันคือเธอ), featuring artworks spanning Vasan Sitthiket's entire career, opened yesterday at BACC in Bangkok. The retrospective includes paintings, woodcut prints, large-scale installations, and a handful of videos (including There Must Be Something Happen). Some of his sketchbooks are also on show, and they include preparatory sketches for Blue October (ตุลาลัย) from 1978.
In Thailand, discussion of sensitive subjects is usually camouflaged by innuendo, and criticisms are made indirectly, to save face. Vasan, however, pulls no punches. Unusually for an established Thai artist, he is refreshingly blunt in his treatment of politics, sex, and religion. Hypocrisy and Ten Evil Scenes of Thai Politic [sic], for example, portray politicians as corrupt figures succumbing to the sins of lust and greed. In his frequent self-portraits (such as The Human Clay) he is not only nude but also tumescent. Vasan's depiction of monks has also caused controversy: Buddha Returns to Bangkok (พระพุทธเจ้าเสด็จกรุงเทพ 2535) depicted a monk raping a woman, and Obsessive Compulsive included paintings of monks having sex.
I Am You is a major retrospective, with more than 100 artworks, including Death for Democracy 1992 (ตายเพื่อประชาธิปไตย 2535), though Vasan's more controversial pieces are notable by their absence. The bilingual exhibition catalogue, which includes an essay by Iola Lenzi, is accompanied by The Literature Collection of Vasan Sitthiket (รวมวรรณกรรมคัดสรร), a book of Vasan's writings. The exhibition closes on 27th May.
19 January 2018
Vasan Sitthiket's Bangkok gallery, Rebel Art Space, is currently hosting an exhibition by Dutch artist Peter Klashorst. Many of the paintings feature sexualised female nudes, including Fuck the Police, a literal interpretation of the NWA song Fuck tha Police. (Vasan has previously incorporated the slogan "FUCK THE POLICE" into his work.)
The exhibition is titled Cunt and Cock Show (ลึงค์แลโยนี). Similarly, Judy Chicago wrote a feminist play called Cock and Cunt, which featured dialogue such as "a cock means you don't wash dishes. You have a cunt. A cunt means you wash dishes." (I performed this scene at university in 2001, while I was researching the c-word.) Cunt and Cock Show opened today, and closes on 3rd February.
24 September 2016
An exhibition of new works by Kosit Juntaratip opened last weekend in Bangkok. Allergic Realities features eighteen paintings of iconic news photographs, replicating the grainy printing process traditionally used by newspapers. Kosit has used his own blood to paint the halftone dots.
One of the paintings (Thammasat Hanging) is based on the notorious Neal Ulevich photograph of a public lynching following the 1976 Thammasat University protest. The photo was also appropriated by Manit Sriwanichpoom for Horror In Pink (ปีศาจสีชมพู), featuring Manit's trademark 'Pink Man' as an incongruous spectator. Vasan Sitthiket's Blue October (ตุลาลัย) series included a version of the photograph painted in mournful blue, with gold leaf to honour the hanged man, and the sarcastic title This Is the Buddhism Country (นี่แหละหนอเมืองพระพุทธศาสนา). The two central figures appear in silhouette in Sitthiphorn Anthawonksa's Death of Book (ศพหนังสือ), shown at the Art for Freedom (ศิลปะเพื่อเสรีภาพ) exhibition at the Pridi Banomyong Institute in 2013. Sutee Kunavichayanont carved it into a wooden desk for his History Class (ห้องเรียนประวัติศาสตร์) installation. The image even featured on the cover of Holiday in Cambodia, a single by the Dead Kennedys (ironically, given the song's title).
Another Thai artist, Pornprasert Yamazaki, has also painted with blood; his work was shown at the Swallow, Currency Crisis, and Suicide Mind exhibitions. Manit Sriwanichpoom soaked autopsy photographs in blood for Died On 6th October 1976. UDD protesters painted a banner in blood at Democracy Monument, and Kristian von Hornsleth collected Thai blood samples for his Deep Storage Art Project.
Kosit previously painted with blood during performances in the 1990s (as documented in Thailand Eye), and he has also used other bodily fluids as a medium: his painting Copulate With Love (at MAIIAM) is labelled "Ejaculation on canvas (Kosit's spermatozoa)". Allergic Realities opened at Bangkok University Gallery on 17th September, and runs until 30th October.
22 January 2014
Rebel Art Space, one of Bangkok's newest art galleries, opened on 11th December last year. The gallery's inaugural exhibition, portraits of Narin Klung by Vasan Sitthiket, runs until 8th February. There is also a permanent collection, selected from Vasan's previous works, including self-portraits from his Chaotic Victory series.
Rebel Art Space also serves as Vasan's studio, and his current works are responses to the anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok. People Fuck The Police, a life-sized print criticising the Thai police's political bias, has a typically direct message, inspired by NWA's controversial single Fuck Tha Police from 1988.
In Thailand, criticisms are almost always made indirectly to save face, and discussion of sensitive subjects, even in the media, is usually camouflaged by innuendo. Vasan, however, pulls no punches; unusually for an established Thai artist, he is refreshingly blunt in his treatment of politics, sex, and religion. Hypocrisy and Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic], for example, portray politicians such as Thaksin Shinawatra and Suthep Thaugsuban as thoroughly corrupt figures succumbing to the sins of lust and greed. His self-portraits, as in The Human Clay, often depict him not only nude but also tumescent.
In 2000, Vasan's exhibition What Is In Our Heads? was censored by Chulalongkorn University. Like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Withit Sembutr, and Anupong Chantorn, Vasan's depiction of monks has also caused controversy: his 1992 painting Buddha Returns To Bangkok depicted a monk raping a woman, and Obsessive Compulsive included paintings of monks having sex. In Flavours, his book on contemporary Thai art, Steven Pettifor describes Vasan as "the country's most outrageous artist". Some of his video works, including the scatological There Must Be Something Happen, were shown at From Message To Media.
12 May 2012
Hypocrisy, a new exhibition by Vasan Sitthiket, opened this evening at Thavibu Gallery in Bangkok. Vasan's work is often scathingly direct in its condemnation of political figures, and the new paintings in this exhibition are no exception. Most graphically, Hillary Clinton is portrayed nude, giving birth to an enormous and literal representation of phallocentric power. In another painting, a beatific Buddha shoots various world leaders with an automatic rifle.
The paintings are accompanied by Thai Nukes, a supplementary exhibition of more than a hundred wooden phalli painted with ironic globalisation slogans, in an adjacent gallery. Hypocrisy and Thai Nukes will close on 9th June. Vasan's recent exhibitions have included the solo shows Obsessive Compulsive and Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic], and joint shows The Human Clay and Chaotic Victory.
22 February 2012
The Human Clay, a joint exhibition by provocative Thai artist Vasan Sitthiket and Australian photographer Diane Mantzaris, opened today at Number One Gallery in Bangkok. (Vasan's solo exhibitions Obsessive Compulsive and Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic] were also held at the same venue.)
Vasan has painted a self-portrait as a skeleton holding a machine gun (People Can Do No Wrong), and an auto-fellating monk (Intrend Smart). Mantzaris has photographed herself posing as classical sculptures while urinating (Fountain Of Eve and Fountain Of Venus).
Both Vasan and Mantzaris have used art as a means of political protest; they previously collaborated in the 1990s, shortly after the Black May massacre by the military. The Human Clay will close on 3rd March.
02 April 2011
Vasan Sitthiket's latest exhibition, Obsessive Compulsive, opened yesterday at Number One Gallery, Bangkok, and will close on 7th May. (Vasan's previous exhibition, Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic], was shown at the same gallery last year.)
The exhibition includes ตัวใครตัวมันนะโยม, a painting of naked monks fighting and having sex, with a monk's saffron robe appliqued to the canvas. This characteristically provocative work is as controversial as Anupong Chantorn's painting Moral Boundary, in which naked monks were painted onto a monk's robe.
05 August 2010
Whitespace Gallery, at Lido in Bangkok, is currently showing a retrospective of highlights from fifteen of the gallery's previous exhibitions. The selection includes a self-portrait by Vasan Sitthiket from Chaotic Victory and two blood paintings by Pornprasert Yamazaki from Suicide Mind. The Whitespace Retro exhibition opened on 16th July and will close on 8th August.
08 March 2010
Chaotic Victory, an exhibition of new works by Vasan Sitthiket and Iwan Wijono, will open at Whitespace Gallery, Bangkok, from 12th March to 11th April. Vasan has a simultaneous exhibition at Number One Gallery, Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic].
Vasan has produced a series of self-portraits, depicting himself as Buddha and a terrorist. Wijono's paintings comment on the hypocrisy of iconic figures such as Barack Obama and Andy Warhol. Like Santiago Sierra, he works with economically marginalised labourers, though his projects are genuinely collaborative and mutually advantageous in contrast to Sierra's exploitation.
A new exhibition by Vasan Sitthiket, titled Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic], opens on 11th March at Number One Gallery, Bangkok. It will close on 3rd April.
Vasan is refreshingly direct in his treatment of politics, sex, and religion. His new paintings, for example, explicitly depict politicians such as Thaksin Shinawatra and Suthep Thaugsuban as thoroughly corrupt figures succumbing to the temptations of sex and money. Some of his video works, including the scatological There Must Be Something Happen, were shown at From Message To Media.
25 October 2007
From Message To Media is a retrospective survey of Thai new-media art 1985-2005, at Bangkok University Gallery from 22nd September until 10th November. (The title inverts Marshall McLuhan's dictum "the medium is the message".)
The exhibition, part of the Bangkok Design Festival, features video art and digital photography by ten artists. (Eleven were originally planned, though for some reason acclaimed director Apichatpong Weerasethakul was unfortunately omitted at the last minute.)
Apinan Poshyananda's video installation How To Explain Art To A Bangkok Cock (1985) features footage of the artist interpreting Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa for a group of chickens. He was presumably inspired by Joseph Beuys's performance How To Explain Pictures To A Dead Hare - the difference being that Apinan's chickens were all alive. Apinan also printed photocopies of Leonardo's painting onto crates, so that they resembled Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes. (He has also silkscreened the same image, titled Metamorphosis Of Mona, in a further Warhol parallel.) He cites Walter Benjamin's fascinating essay The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction as a key influence, and he is one one of the most interesting of the many artists inspired by Benjamin.
Several videos by Vasan Sitthiket are included, such as There Must Be Something Happen [sic] (1993), in which he was filmed while urinating and excreting (similar in content, if not in style, to the Aktionist films by Kurt Kren, such as The Eating Drinking Shitting Pissing Film). Vasan's other videos are I Manning Myself Around (the artist's fruitless attempts to grab some money dangling in front of him), Top Boot On My Head (performing everyday tasks with a boot balanced on his head), Goodbye Thailand (in which he pretends to kidnap himself at gunpoint), and How To Make A Good Art For Get Win Award [sic] (in which he presents a lecture on art to an empty classroom).
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is represented by her video Reading For Female Corpse (2001). [Confusingly, I saw a different Araya video two years ago which had the same title and date.] Araya can be seen reading aloud to a woman's corpse which is positioned in a coffin-like glass box.
Manit Sriwanichpoom's trademark 'Pink Man', a man in a bright pink suit pushing a shopping trolley incongruously inserted into photographs, is seen here as a spectator at the public lynchings of Thai pro-democracy protesters in 1976. The images (Horror In Pink) are extremely powerful, especially Horror In Pink I, in which a hanged man is about to be savagely beaten with a chair. Manit created the series after Samak Sundaravej was elected governor of Bangkok in 2000: the works were intended to remind the city's electorate of Samak's notorious role as an agitator prior to the 6th October 1976 massacre.