21 June 2020

Give Us a Little More Time

Give Us a Little More Time
Give Us a Little More Time
Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s exhibition Give Us a Little More Time (ขอเวลาอีกไม่นาน) opened today at Bangkok CityCity Gallery. Every day from the 2014 coup until the 2019 election, Chulayarnnon created a different A4 collage from Thai newspaper clippings. There are more than 1,000 of these satirical collages, collected in a six-volume catalogue, and ten of them are on show at the exhibition as enlarged reproductions.

The main gallery space is occupied by a four-screen video installation, showing a twelve-minute montage of overlapping newspaper headlines and photos. This rapid-fire video collage remixes and distills six years of mainstream press coverage of the military government.

The exhibition’s ironic title is a line from a propaganda song released by the junta, Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย), part of which is sampled on the video soundtrack. Arnont Nongyao’s video Ghost Rabbit and the Casket Sales (กระต่ายผี กับ คนขายโลง) also samples the song, as does Thunska Pansittivorakul’s documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล).

Chulayarnnon’s recent film 100 Times Reproduction of Democracy (การผลิตซ้ำประชาธิปไตยให้กลายเป็นของแท้) is another post-coup political critique, and will be shown at CityCity on 9th August, when the exhibition closes. (Give Us a Little More Time was originally scheduled for 25th April to 21st June, though the opening was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

23 February 2020

Cult of Identity

Cult of Identity
World of Wrestling
Nathee Monthonwit’s exhibition Cult of Identity opened at BACC on 6th February, and runs until 1st March. Nathee’s cartoon-style digital prints satirise society, politics, and the military. One picture, World of Wrestling (โลกมวยปล้ำ), combines references to the 6th October 1976 massacre and the 2014 coup. The painting shows the folding chair from Neal Ulevich’s infamous photograph of the massacre, with the hanging corpse as a wrestler defeated by a figure representing the military junta.

12 February 2020

Fulfill

Fulfill
Fulfill
Fulfill
Thanathorn Suppakijjumnong’s exhibition of typewriter art, Fulfill (เติมเต็ม), opened on 6th February at BACC. The show is dominated by portraits—the Family (ครอบครัว) and Secret of Love (ความลับของความรัก) series—and What’s in Hide [sic] (มีอะไรซ่อนอยู่), a series of abstract compositions. Another picture, Mother’s Love (ความรักของแม่), shows the artist’s mother guiding his hand onto a typewriter keyboard.

Each work was meticulously typed onto paper using a manual typewriter (two of which are on display at the exhibition), and Thanathorn achieves an almost photorealistic level of detail in the Family portraits. The other pictures incorporate folded paper, resembling the childrens’ fortune-telling origami game. The history of typewriter art is covered in the books Typewriter Art and The Art of Typewriting, and the exhibition runs until 1st March.

24 January 2020

Neo Thaiism

Neo Thaiism
Siam 2020
After Carnivalism, Gagasmicism, and Roboticlism, Thai art has a new ‘ism’: Neo Thaiism. A new exhibition brings together three young Thai artists—Subannakrit Krikum, Terdtanwa Kanama, and Teerapon Sisung—positioning them as the vanguard of a new artistic wave.

Subannakrit’s exquisite paintings resemble miniature temple murals, though on closer inspection they reveal unexpected elements: Siam 2020, for example, features modern artworks placed incongruously among traditional décor. Terdtanwa’s large canvases depict apocalyptic imagery with a dystopian environmental message. Teerapon creates delicate sculptures from woven copper thread.

The Neo Thaiism exhibition opened at Bangkok’s Joyman Gallery on 7th January, and runs until 29th February. The exhibition booklet by curator Witchakorn Tangklangkunlachorn features impressive photography though fairly superficial text.

19 January 2020

Almost Fiction

Almost Fiction
Almost Fiction
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s photography exhibition Almost Fiction opened on 21st December 2019. The exhibition is divided into two halves: in one room are works from Apichatpong’s Insomnia series, with larger images from his Soldier series in an adjacent room.

The Insomnia series includes several shots taken on the set of Apichatpong’s short video Blue (ตะวันดับ). The most startling work is a diptych titled Bullet, showing a bullet emerging from an elderly woman’s mouth. (The woman in question is Jenjira Pongpas, who has appeared in many of Apichatpong’s films and videos.)

For the Soldier series, Apichatpong photographed young soldiers and obscured their faces with white light. Soldiers have featured as characters in several of Apichatpong’s films, perhaps indicating the military’s persistent influence over Thai society and politics. The Soldier series includes three large photographs (Group Portrait, A Young Man at Twilight, and Embrace) and a smaller image displayed in a lightbox (Mirage Boy).

Almost Fiction runs until 21st February at Gallery Seescape in Chiang Mai. The popular café next door, SS1254372, is also highly recommended.

18 January 2020

Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik
The current Nam June Paik exhibition at Tate Modern in London features more than 200 artworks, making it arguably as significant as the Paik retrospective held twenty years ago at the Guggenheim in New York. The Tate’s exhibition catalogue was edited by curators Sook-Kyung Lee and Rudolf Frieling.

The catalogue includes fascinating essays on key Paik works, such as TV Buddha. There are also chapters on the roles of music and television in Paik’s work. However, the Guggenheim exhibition catalogue, The Worlds of Nam June Paik, remains the most comprehensive book on Paik, with a detailed bibliography and exhibition history.

24 December 2019

Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik
TV Buddha
TV Buddha
TV Buddha
A major Nam June Paik retrospective is currently on show at Tate Modern in London. The exhibition features more than 200 works, including Button Happening, Paik’s earliest extant video piece and, therefore, arguably the first example of video art. (Paik purchased a video camera in 1965. Legend has it that he filmed Pope Paul VI’s visit to New York on 4th October of that year, though the footage no longer exists. Button Happening was shot at around the same time.) The show also features numerous artefacts from Paik’s Fluxus period, including Zen for Film, a projection of unexposed 16mm film.

The exhibition opens with Paik’s masterpiece, TV Buddha. This installation—in which a Buddha statue contemplates its own image via CCTV—exists in numerous variations, though the Tate retrospective has the original 1974 version (with an 18th-century Buddha and JVC Videosphere TV), on loan from Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. The exhibition runs from 17th October until 9th February next year.

12 December 2019

Spectrosynthesis II

Spectrosynthesis II
Spectrosynthesis II
Portrait of a Man in Habits
Gay Mixed II / Gay Mixed IV
Underage
Spectrosynthesis II - Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia (สนทนาสัปตสนธิ ๒: ไตร่ถาม ความหลากหลายในอุษาคเนย์) opened at Bangkok’s BACC on 23rd November. This major group exhibition features more than fifty artists, and is on show until 1st March next year. The substantial catalogue includes an essay by curator Chatvichai Promadhattavedi.

Highlights include Michael Shaowanasai’s Portrait of a Man in Habits, in which the artist poses as a monk wearing female make-up. When it was first shown, at the Chulalongkorn Art Center’s Alien {Gener}ation exhibition in 2000, it was condemned by the Thai Rath (ไทยรัฐ) newspaper. This led to complaints from Buddhist groups, and the photograph was withdrawn from display.

Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê’s collages Gay Mixed II and Gay Mixed IV are also included. They are constructed from photographic strips woven together like traditional Vietnamese mats, though they include images from gay pornography censored in Vietnam.

Ohm Phanphiroj’s short video Underage, in which he interviews young boys forced into prostitution in Bangkok, was removed from the exhibition less than a month after it opened, following a high-level complaint. Thus, although Thailand is becoming increasingly accepting of gay culture, it remains hypersensitive to any material that exposes the country’s extreme social inequality. Rather than addressing the underlying problem, the official policy seems to be: shoot the messenger.

04 November 2019

Never Again

Never Again
Never Again
Never Again
Never Again
Thai political protesters of all persuasions have used clothing and accessories as markers of political identity. Medallions were distributed at the funerals of 13th October 1973 massacre victims. (Reproductions were issued with a book commemorating the event.) The UDD and PAD movements are both better known by the colour of their respective clothes—red-shirts and yellow-shirts—and both groups also used plastic hand-clappers at their rallies. Later, the PDRC protesters were nicknamed whistle-blowers, not because they were exposing corruption but because they blew whistles at their protests.

These simple artefacts are souvenirs of protests attended, and symbols of the deeply polarised nature of modern Thai politics. A collection of more recent political emphemera is currently on show in Bangkok, at the Never Again exhibition. The items on display, including UDD calendars and water bowls, were all declared illegal by the junta in the years following the 2014 coup. The exhibition also features a large collection of anti-junta t-shirts.

The main exhibit is the white shirt worn by New Democracy Movement member Sirawith Seritiwat when he was attacked by thugs on 28th June. His bloodstained shirt highlights the violence of the attack, and serves as a potent reminder of the anti-democratic vigilantism that has existed in Thailand for more than forty years. (Stickers from the New Democracy Movement are also included, though their banned ‘seven reasons to vote no’ leaflet is missing.)

Never Again: Seize, Trample, Repeat, Change (หยุด ย่ำ ซ้ำ เดิน) was organised by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO that also published the recent book ราษฎรกำแหง (‘dissident citizens’). The exhibition was previously held at Chiang Mai University (from 11th to 16th August), and is now at WTF Gallery (from 1st to 10th November).

16 October 2019

The Amazing Thai-Land

The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land
The Amazing Thai-Land, is graphic artist Chalermpol Junrayab’s debut solo exhibition. (The title is an ironic reappropriation of the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s slogan ‘Amazing Thailand’.) Chalermpol creates parodies of comic-book covers on his iPad, satirising Thai politics.

Junta leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is caricatured in several of Chalermpol’s prints. In Final Curve, for example, the 24th March election campaign is depicted as a dodgem race, which Prayut (car number 44) wins with the help of a turbo engine representing the 250 senators he appointed. Another print, Buddha Man, refers to the recent Ultraman Buddha controversy, with an inset portrait of the Buddha wearing Ultraman’s costume.

The Amazing Thai-Land opened on 12th October at Sathorn 11 Art Space in Bangkok. Free copies of Chalermpol’s 2019 desk calendar are available at the exhibition, which runs until 25th October. (Political calendars caused controversy in 2016 and 2018, when calendars promoting Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra were seized by the military.)

06 October 2019

Museum of October 6

Museum of October 6
Museum of October 6
Museum of October 6
Today marks the anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University. To commemorate the event, this weekend there is an exhibition at Thammasat organised by the Museum of October 6. For the first time, artefacts from the massacre itself are on display, including a megaphone—riddled with bullet holes—used by student protesters.

The exhibition, titled ประจักษ์ / พยาน (‘evidence / witness’) is dominated by a large gate, red with rust. Two activists were hanged from this gate on 25th September 1976, after they campaigned against military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn’s return from exile. Their hanging was reenacted by Thammasat students on 4th October 1976. The reenactment was falsely portrayed by the right-wing tabloid Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) as an attack on the Crown Prince, and this incendiary report precipitated the massacre at Thammasat.

The red gate had remained undisturbed ever since the massacre, until it was rediscovered by Patporn Phoothong in 2017. Patporn, who curated the exhibition, has also made three documentaries about 6th October: Silenced Memories (ความทรงจ ไรเสยง), Respectfully Yours (ดวยความนบถอ), and The Two Brothers (สองพนอง). The red gate is also the subject of a painting at the ศิลปะนานาพันธุ์ ศิลปะประชาธิปไตย (‘art for democracy’) exhibition, currently on show elsewhere in Bangkok; and Pachara Piyasongsoot’s Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) exhibition included a painting depicting the hanged men’s view from the red gate.

04 October 2019

ศิลปะนานาพันธุ์ ศิลปะประชาธิปไตย

The group exhibition ศิลปะนานาพันธุ์ ศิลปะประชาธิปไตย (‘art for democracy’) opened on 28th September at Angoon’s Garden in Bangkok. Most of the paintings in the show are displayed outside, with some hanging next to a small pond. The exhibition (a less provocative equivalent of the political art show Uncensored) runs for exactly one month.

Each artwork is a response to the Thai military’s political influence over the decades. For example, Jirapatt Aungsumalee’s painting ประตูแดง (‘red gate’) depicts the outlines of two men hanged from a red gate in 1976, the extrajudicial killings that precipitated the 6th October 1976 massacre. A painting by Ekalux Julsukont also refers to 6th October: a man ready to strike a corpse with a chair, a figure from Neal Ulevich’s iconic photograph of the massacre.

The exhibition includes a single sculpture, Pin Sasao’s ถังแดง​: ความตายของบิลลี่ (‘red barrel: the death of Billy’), which uses a mannequin and barbecue to represent the murder of human rights activist Porlajee Rakchongcharoen. (Porlajee, nicknamed Billy, was stuffed into an oil drum, in an echo of the ‘red barrel’ killings of Thailand’s anti-Communist purge.) There are also photographs of performance art events by Sinsawat Yodbangtoey, Memory / History / Democracy (ความทรงจำประวัติศาสตร์ประชาธิปไตย), taken at monuments marking various Thai political upheavals.

The short film The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง) and the Anatomy of Silence (กายวิภาคของความเงียบ) exhibition were also inspired by the ‘red gate’ hangings; the gate itself will be shown at an exhibition marking the anniversary of 6th October this weekend. The man with the chair has been painted by numerous artists, including Headache Stencil and Tawan Wattuya.

09 September 2019

พระพุทธรูปอุลตร้าแมน

Terminal 21
Popularity 2
Popularity 1
Popularity 4
Popularity 3
Paintings depicting the Buddha as Ultraman (พระพุทธรูปอุลตร้าแมน) have been removed from an exhibition in Nakhon Ratchasima. The works, part of a series titled Popularity, were put on display at the Terminal 21 shopping mall on 3rd September, though they were withdrawn following allegations of blasphemy. The exhibition, เต๊อ=เติ๋น (literal translation: ‘too much=terrace’), is scheduled to close on 11th September.

Far from being blasphemous, the paintings present the Buddha as a heroic figure for young Ultraman fans. Nevertheless, the student artist, Suparat Chaijangrid, was required to issue a tearful public apology at a Buddhist temple on 7th September. (This ritual, in which transgressors of social convention must repent and plead for forgiveness, is a regular media spectacle in Thailand.)

The case recalls that of Withit Sembutr’s painting of Buddhist monks from 2007, Doo Phra (ดูพระ), which was withdrawn from a Bangkok mall under similar circumstances. Depictions of the Buddha in Thai art are generally reverential and thus uncontroversial, though an exception was Vasan Sitthiket’s Buddha Returns to Bangkok (พระพุทธเจ้าเสด็จกรุงเทพ 2535), a response to the 1992 ‘Black May’ massacre. Vasan has also painted the Buddha shooting corrupt politicians with a machine gun.

01 September 2019

Rifts

Rifts
The group exhibition Rifts (รอยแยก) features thirteen Thai artists who came to prominence over the last thirty years, in what was arguably the first wave of postmodern Thai art. Each artist is represented by a single work, and one of the highlights is Reading for One Female Corpse, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s first piece of video art.

Rifts: Thai Contemporary Artistic Practices in Transition, 1980s-2000s opened at the BACC in Bangkok on 30th August, and will close on 24th November. Feeling the 1990s, part of the permanent collection at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai, features Thai art from the same period.

28 August 2019

Elect After Election

Elect After Election
Elect After Election
Elect After Election
Elect After Election
The Elect After Election (เลือกแล้วได้อะไร? ประชาธิปไตยไทยหลังการเลือกตั้ง) installation features 750 seats, one for each of Thailand’s MPs and senators. The 500 appointed senators are represented by monoblok chairs, while the 250 elected politicians are symbolised by lowly stools. On the exhibition poster, the senators are depicted as tongue emojis, recalling Rap Against Dictatorship’s single 250 Bootlickers (250 สอพลอ).

In the centre of the installation is a blow-up figure with Prayut Chan-o-cha’s face, absurdly inflating and deflating in time to audio clips of Prayut’s parliamentary speeches. (Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, was appointed PM by the rubber-stamp National Legislative Assembly, and was reappointed after the 24th March election thanks to the votes of the hand-picked senators.)

Elect After Election was organised by Elect, a new NGO that aims to increase Thai public interest in politics and democracy. The exhibition opened yesterday at BACC in Bangkok, and will close on 1st September.

11 August 2019

Cut and Paste

Cut and Paste
The Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage exhibition is currently showing at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The scholarly exhibition catalogue describes the show as “the first historical survey exhibition of collage ever held” and the catalogue itself as “the first publication to look at the broad history of collage.” (For good measure, the back cover calls the catalogue “the first historical survey book ever published on the subject.”) In fact, neither the exhibition nor the catalogue represent the first surveys of collage in art history, though they are both more wide-ranging than previous histories of the technique.

The standard accounts of collage trace its origins to 1912, and the newspaper cuttings appliquéd to Cubist paintings by Picasso and Braque. Cut and Paste, however, antedates the technique by 400 years, and Patrick Elliott's fascinating catalogue essay demonstrates the extent and variety of pre-Cubist collage. Nineteenth and early twentieth century collages are also discussed in the first chapter of Herta Wescher’s Collage which, with its tipped-in colour plates, remains the definitive work on the subject. A more recent history, Brandon Taylor’s Collage, covers the twentieth century and - like the Cut and Paste catalogue - includes an extensive bibliography.

30 July 2019

Temporal Topography

Temporal Topography
Planking
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.)