30 April 2023

Red, Yellow and Beyond


Red, Yellow and BeyondRed, Yellow and Beyond

Photojournalist Vinai Dithajohn’s exhibition Red, Yellow and Beyond is on show at two adjacent Bangkok galleries: Red and Yellow at VS Gallery and Beyond at Cartel Artspace. Vinai’s photographs cover more than fifteen years of political polarisation in Thailand, from 2005 to the present day. Red, Yellow and Beyond opened on 22nd April, and runs until 2nd July.

At Red and Yellow, which visitors enter through red and yellow curtains, photos of yellow-shirt and red-shirt rallies are hung on opposite walls of a corridor, so that the two opposing groups face each other. This echoes Vinai’s exhibition last year—ทางราษฎร์กิโลเมตรที่ 0 (‘the people’s road, 0km’)—which featured images of student protesters opposite a photo of a soldier. Beyond is dominated by a portrait of a student protester at twilight, which occupies an entire wall of the gallery. One of the most striking photos shows Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul delivering her taboo-breaking speech calling for reform of the monarchy.

Another photojournalist, Nick Nostitz, also covered the red-shirt and yellow-shirt movements, and the red-shirt protests were documented in two books published by Same Sky and Read Journal. The recent student protests are the subject of a handful of photobooks: No God No King Only Human, End in This Generation, There’s Always Spring (เมื่อถึงเวลาดอกไม้จะบาน), EBB, and #WhatsHappeningInThailand.

29 April 2023

Shit:
An Investigation


Shit: An Investigation Piero Manzoni

Andres Serrano’s Shit exhibition, held in 2007, featured mural-sized images of feces excreted by various animal species (and the artist himself, titled Self-Portrait Shit). The feces in question appears in close-up, photographed against brightly coloured backdrops. The exhibition catalogue, Shit: An Investigation, reproduces all sixty-six shits.

This is not the only controversial and potentially offensive subject tackled by Serrano. In fact, his work has broken all kinds of artistic taboos, with self-explanatory photo series such as A History of Sex, The Morgue, and Bodily Fluids. He is arguably the world’s most provocative photographer, and an image from his Immersions series—Piss Christ, a crucifix submerged in urine—is the most famous artwork to be accused of blasphemy. His subject matter may evoke shock or disgust, though his glossy, vibrant images are also visually appealing; in fact—as is the case with Piss Christ, for example—their transgressive nature is often not apparent until the title is revealed.

The use or depiction of shit is rare in modern art, though there are a few examples besides Serrano. Piero Manzoni sold cans apparently containing 30g of his own feces, Artist’s Shit (Merda d’artista). Chris Ofili affixed balls of elephant dung to his Upper Room paintings (and, controversially, The Holy Virgin Mary). Gilbert and George photographed their feces for The Fundamental Pictures and The Naked Shit Pictures. Santiago Sierra’s Anthropometric Modules installations were blocks of dried human excrement, collected and moulded by scavengers in India.

A handful of artists have also used excrement as a paint medium. In 2015, New York artist KATSU painted a portrait of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg using his own excrement. This year, British artist Dominic Murphy painted a portrait of Vladimir Putin with a dog turd. Werner Härtl has been painting with cow dung in Germany for more than a decade. Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter Diana Widmaier has claimed that he used his daughter Maya’s feces to paint an apple for a 1938 still life.

The work that’s most similar to Serrano’s Shit catalogue is Cacas: The Encyclopedia of Poo, a photobook credited to Oliviero Toscani though in fact photographed by his sister, Mariosa Toscani Ballo. Like Shit, Cacas also features close-up images of the excrements of various species, though they are photographed against clinical white backgrounds.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (blu-ray)


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone’s epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) is the greatest ‘spaghetti western’ ever made, though it has a long and convoluted editing history, with three different cuts supervised by Leone and numerous revisions by MGM. The most recent 4k restoration rectifies most of the problems with previous releases, though the only completely authentic presentation of the international theatrical version is on laserdisc.

When the film premiered in 1966 in Italy, it included a sequence set in a grotto, which was deleted by Leone for pacing reasons before the general theatrical release. Then, in 1967, Leone removed more than ten minutes of footage for the international version. VHS and laserdisc releases were direct transfers of the original theatrical versions, but later DVDs, blu-rays, and UHDs are restorations and reconstructions, all of which are compromised to some extent.

MGM first attempted to reconstruct the international theatrical version for a 1998 DVD release, though some sequences were sourced from Italian prints, leading to inconsistencies with the 1967 version. In 2002, MGM created a new, extended version utilising all extant footage, including the grotto sequence that Leone himself had removed before the Italian theatrical release. This 2002 version also featured new foley effects and newly looped dialogue in some scenes.

For blu-ray and DVD releases in 2014, MGM remastered their extended version and altered the colour grading, adding an incongruous yellow tint to the image. The extended version was remastered again for new blu-rays and DVDs in 2017, when the yellow tint was removed. 2017 also marked MGM’s second reconstruction of the international theatrical version, though this followed the flawed template of their 1998 attempt.

The film was released on 4k UHD and blu-ray in 2021, and this time MGM created an almost flawless reconstruction of the international theatrical version (the only inconsistencies being in the title sequence). Reconstruction credits were added to the end credits sequence of this release, and to all UHD, blu-ray, and DVD editions released since 2002.

27 April 2023

Patchwork:
A World Tour


Patchwork

Patchwork: A World Tour, by Catherine Legrand, was originally published in French as Patchworks: Une mosaïque du monde. Patchworks is the second recent French-language survey of international patchwork textiles, though this translation, published by Thames and Hudson, is the first book on the subject in English. (Caroline Crabtree and Christine Shaw’s Quilting, Patchwork and Appliqué: A World Guide, a previous Thames and Hudson publication, also covered international patchwork, alongside other textile techniques.)

Legrand’s book, like patchwork itself, is a colourful collection of material, assembled and juxtaposed. The scope is truly global: there are chapters on all continents with native populations, with the exception of Australia. (Therefore, Aboriginal patchworks are unfortunately omitted.) Patchworks from more than thirty individual countries are included, with China and the US receiving the most extensive coverage. The patchworks photographed for the book—most of which are quilts and items of clothing—are sourced from an impressive variety of museums and private collections. The full-page, close-up illustrations are superb, and there’s a comprehensive bibliography.

26 April 2023

Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey


Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey

The Thai Film Archive at Salaya will screen a season of gay films thoughout May and June, under the Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey (การเดินทางของหนังเควียร์ไทย) banner. This will be a rare chance to see the pioneering films of the 1980s—The Last Song (เพลงสุดท้าย), Anguished Love (รักทรมาน), and I Am a Man (ฉันผู้ชายนะยะ)—that constituted the first wave of Thai queer cinema. Also, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด) will be shown on 17th and 30th June. The highlights of the season, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด) and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก), will both be screened in 35mm. (Tropical Malady will be shown on 24th and 30th June, and Mundane History on 20th and 28th July.)

Insects in the Backyard


Insects in the Backyard premiered at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2010, though requests for a general theatrical release were denied, making it the first film formally banned under the Film and Video Act of 2008. When the censors vetoed a screening at the Thai Film Archive in 2010, Tanwarin cremated a DVD of the film, in a symbolic funeral. (The ashes are kept in an urn at the Thai Film Museum.) Tanwarin appealed to the National Film Board, which upheld the ban, so she sued the censors in the Administrative Court.

As Tanwarin explained in an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored, the censors condemned the entire film: “When we asked the committee who considered the film which scenes constituted immorality, they simply said that they thought every scene is immoral”. When she appealed to the Film Board, they were equally dismissive: “we were told by one of the committee members that we should have made the film in a ‘good’ way. This was said as if we did not know how to produce a good movie, and no clear explanation was given.”

On Christmas Day 2015, the Administrative Court ruled that Insects in the Backyard could be released if a single shot was removed. (The three-second shot shows a hardcore clip from a gay porn video.) Although the film was censored, the verdict represented a victory of sorts, as the court dismissed the censors’ view that the film was immoral. Following the court’s ruling, it was shown at House Rama, Bangkok Screening Room, Sunandha Rajabhat University, ChangChui, and Lido Connect. It was shown at the Thai Film Archive in 2018 and 2020.

Tropical Malady


Internationally, Tropical Malady is one of Apichatpong’s most acclaimed films, though it had rather lacklustre distribution in Thailand. In a Thai Cinema Uncensored interview, he discussed its disappointing domestic theatrical release: “I think, from Tropical Malady, there’s this issue of releasing the film, and marketing, that I don’t like. And also the studio was not interested in the film, anyway, because there’s no selling point: there’s no tiger, there’s no sex, so it’s very personal.”

Tropical Malady: The Book, a deluxe coffee-table book published in 2019, raised the film’s Thai profile. It was previously shown in 35mm at Alliance Française, and it has been screened several times at the Thai Film Archive, including in 2009 and 2018.

Mundane History


Mundane History was the first Thai film to receive the restrictive ‘20’ age rating, though similar content has since been passed with an ‘18’ certificate. One of the greatest of all Thai films, it was previously screened at Warehouse 30 in 2018 and at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017. Anocha’s Krabi, 2562 (กระบี่ ๒๕๖๒) will also be shown at the Archive, on 15th and 26th August.

20 April 2023

Siti Nuramira Abdullah


Crackhouse

Malaysian comedian Siti Nuramira Abdullah has been fined 8,000 ringgit (equivalent to $1,800) for offending religious sentiments. On 4th June last year, as the opener to her set at the Crackhouse comedy club in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, she announced that she was a Muslim and then removed her Islamic tudung headscarf and traditional Malaysian baju kurung dress, to reveal a short skirt and low-cut blouse.

Siti Nuramira was held in custody for ten days following her arrest last year. If she had not paid the fine, she would have been sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. The Crackhouse audience cheered and applauded her routine, though she pleaded guilty to avoid the more serious charge of disrupting social harmony (the offence for which she was originally arrested).

The Malaysian government has banned dozens of books over the past decade, most famously Faisal Tehrani’s novel Perempuan Nan Bercinta (‘the beloved lady’) and cartoon books by Zunar including Sapuman. An exhibition of Zunar’s cartoons was also closed by the authorities.

18 April 2023

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon


Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

When the Thai horror film Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์) faced censorship and a restrictive ‘20’ rating, its distributors announced a plan to release it simultaneously in two versions: Hoon Payon—with the ‘20’ rating imposed by the censors—and Pook Payon (ปลุกพยนต์), with a lower ‘18’ rating though paradoxically four minutes longer. Both versions contain the same level of violence, which is much less than that of many other Thai horror films—such as the gory Art of the Devil II (ลองของ), for example, which was passed by the censors before the rating system existed—making the ‘20’ rating seem rather punitive.

Mindful of how monk characters have often been censored in Thai films (as discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored), the studio had already taken precautions at the script stage. The film stresses that the abbot (Luang Nha) and his accomplice (Tudd), who are ultimately responsible for the black magic at the heart of the plot, are not real monks. As another monk (Gla) tells the abbot: “You are never ordained to become a monk” [sic]. Similarly, the film revolves around a local superstition, not the Buddhist religion. The various killings are carried out—spoiler alert—by a lay character (Tae), a novice (Kun), and a monk (Tee), though the novice and monk are possessed spirits, not living people.

Despite this, the censors initially required edits to several scenes in Hoon Payon before granting the ‘20’ rating: novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows (as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination), and references to the Wat Teppayon temple were also deemed inappropriate.

After negotiations between the censors and the film studio, some of this ‘unacceptable’ material was cut, though some remains intact (in both versions). The novices—and, indeed, the full-fledged monks—still have eyebrows, as presumably it was too expensive to remove them all with CGI. Novices are shown swearing (“Hia!”/“Shit!”). One novice (Kun) bullies a young boy (Tae), calling him a “retard”. Another novice (Breeze) hugs his mother, comforting and protecting her. The second Buddhist precept (“stealing is a sin”) is recited by Tae while he hangs a monk (Tudd) for stealing temple funds.

Pook Payon

Pook Payon


As part of its marketing campaign, the studio claimed on Facebook: “ไม่ตัดฉาก!!” (‘no scenes cut!!’), and it’s true that no entire scenes have been removed, though some individual shots have been censored. In both versions, the intensity of the bullying scene has been reduced: shots of Kun spoon-feeding Tae, and the protagonist (Tham) raising his fists to fight the bully, have both been replaced with reaction shots. The temple sign has also been changed, using CGI: the original sign (“วัดเทพพยนต์”/‘Teppayon temple’) became “เทพพยนต์” (‘Teppayon’). But although the sign was modified, the soundtrack wasn’t: in both versions, the Thai dialogue (“วัดเทพพยนต์”) and the English subtitles (“Teppayon temple”) use the temple’s full name.

Most of the extra footage in Pook Payon is barely noticeable, even after watching both versions back-to-back. But in the most conspicuous additional scene, clearly tacked on to appease the censors—with earnest, didactic dialogue, out of place in a horror film—a lay character (Jate) resolves to become a monk, and Gla tells him: “Becoming a monk is good... it’s best that we hold onto Buddhism.” Jate answers with equal sincerity: “That’s right. I’ll always support Buddhism.” Amen!

Dominion v. Fox News:
“Lies have consequences...”


Fox News

US cable TV channel Fox News and election technology company Dominion Voting Systems have reached a settlement in their defamation case, with Fox agreeing to pay Dominion $787.5 million. The Wall Street Journal reported at the weekend that a settlement was being discussed, and judge Eric Davis unexpectedly delayed the start of the trial, in a possible attempt to encourage settlement negotiations, though jurors were sworn in yesterday and the settlement was announced only at the last minute.

Dominion sued Fox in 2021, accusing the network of broadcasting “a series of verifiably false yet devastating lies” and “outlandish, defamatory, and far-fetched fictions” in the aftermath of the 2020 US presidential election: “Fox recklessly disregarded the truth. Indeed, Fox knew these statements about Dominion were lies.” The lawsuit cited false conspiracy theories that Dominion had rigged the election, claims spread by Donald Trump and his lawyers in the final months of his presidency and endorsed on Fox News shows.

Dominion had sought $1.6 billion in damages, which was widely considered unrealistic, even given the egregious nature of the Fox News broadcasts under dispute. Thus, the $787.5 million settlement, which represents almost half of the total damages originally sought, is extremely high. (As a company, Dominion is valued at less than $100 million.) The settlement implies either that Fox feared losing the defamation case and potentially paying more in damages, or—more likely—that the network sought to avoid the embarrassment of a public trial.

The trial was due to take place in Wilmington, Delaware, a city with a largely Democrat population. (Wilmingtonians voted 2:1 in favour of the Democrats in the 2020 presidential election, and President Joe Biden has a house in the city.) This suggests that the jurors were unlikely to be sympathetic to Fox News and its pro-Republican content. Also, in his pretrial ruling last month, the judge wrote that it “is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true”: an emphatic rejection of the Fox News defence of fair comment.

Once the settlement had been reached yesterday, Fox said in a statement: “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.” This acceptance of the pretrial ruling, albeit in vague terms, is an unusual concession, as out-of-court settlements do not routinely include admissions of liability. This, coupled with the enormity of the settlement, suggests that Fox was keen to avoid potentially damaging witness testimony from its executives and prime-time hosts.

Fox’s defence had already been undermined by the release of hundreds of emails and text messages, submitted in evidence before the trial began. Crucially, these messages demonstrate that the hosts gave airtime to the conspiracy theories about Dominion software despite personally disbelieving them, which could demonstrate actual malice (the legal term for knowingly making false and defamatory statements). In a text message on 9th November 2020, for example, Tucker Carlson wrote: “The software shit is absurd.” Conversely, on his show later that day, he said: “We don’t know anything about the software that many say was rigged.” (Fox defended itself in a previous defamation case by arguing that Carlson’s show should be viewed with “an appropriate amount of skepticism”.)

In a statement outside court yesterday, Dominion’s lawyer Justin Nelson said: “The truth matters. Lies have consequences. Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion and election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories, causing grevious harm to Dominion and the country.” Dominion is also suing another right-wing cable channel, OAN, for $1.6 billion, though OAN lacks the funds to offer a Fox-style settlement. Another election technology company, Smartmatic, is suing Fox for $2.7 billion.

The $787.5 million settlement makes this the largest media defamation case in US legal history. The previous record was the $222.7 million awarded in damages to Money Management Analytical Research in 1997, after The Wall Street Journal accused the company of fraud in a 21st October 1993 article by Laura Jereski (headlined “Regulators Study Texas Securities Firm and Its Louisiana Pension Fund Trades”). In that case, however, the damages were reduced on appeal to $22.7 million. (In the UK, libel damages were at their highest in the 1980s, though the amounts were paltry in comparison to the US.)

video

06 April 2023

Kinetismus:
100 Years of Electricity in Art


Kinetismus Kinetic Construction

The publishers of Kinetismus: 100 Years of Electricity in Art—the catalogue of an exhibition held last year at the Kunsthalle in Prague—describe it as “the first comprehensive survey of art forms based on electricity and electronics.” The book explores a century of “plugged-in art”, which it distinguishes from the “unplugged art” (equivalent to acoustic music) that existed before the twentieth century.

The title Kinetismus comes from a term coined by Zdeněk Pešánek, “the father of neon art”, and his kinetic light sculptures were the initial inspiration for the exhibition. The catalogue builds on the work of curator Frank Popper, whose books include Origins and Development of Kinetic Art and Art of the Electronic Age. Peter Weibel, who co-edited Kinetismus with Christelle Havranek, previously co-edited the monumental Light Art from Artificial Light (Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht) catalogue.

Kinetismus is divided into four broad categories: cinematography, kinetics, cybernetics, and computer art. Cinematography is represented by early abstract ‘absolute’ films such as Hans Richter’s Rhythmus ’21 (‘rhythm 21’), Viking Eggeling’s Diagonal Symphony (Diagonalsymphonien), and Walther Ruttmann’s Lichtspiel Opus I (‘light show I’). Kinetic sculptures include a replica of Naum Gabo’s groundbreaking Kinetic Construction.

05 April 2023

Aquatint:
From Its Origins to Goya


Aquatint

Aquatint, by Rena M. Hoisington—the catalogue of a 2021 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—is the first general history of aquatint printmaking for more than a century. The only previous work on the subject, S.T. Prideaux’s Aquatint Engraving, was published in 1909.

The full title of Hoisington’s book is Aquatint: From Its Origins to Goya, though the origins of aquatint are a matter of debate. As Prideaux put it: “There seems to be no one person to whom the actual invention of aquatint can definitely be assigned.” Writing 112 years later, Hoisington agrees that “the designation of an artist as the “first” to invent or use acquatint is often complicated”.

The earliest potential aquatint pioneer is Jan van de Velde, whose circa 1653 portrait of Oliver Cromwell has an aquatint background. In The Art of the Print, Fritz Eichenberg argues that the technique “may have been used” by van de Velde, though Prideaux dismisses this, believing that “it is more likely that the attribution is mistaken and that the background was added later.”

Oliver Cromwell XII Views in Aquatinta from Drawings Taken on the Spot in South-Wales

Arthur M. Hind’s A History of Engraving and Etching notes that Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, working more than 100 years after van de Velde, is “generally regarded as the inventor of aquatint.” Prideaux concurs with this view, though Hoisington credits Le Prince as aquatint’s populariser rather than its creator: “Le Prince himself fully acknowledged that he did not invent aquatint, but he proudly took credit for perfecting it.”

Hoisington seems to support the case for van de Velde, writing that aquatint “was invented in the Netherlands in the 1650s,” though she relegates van de Velde’s name to a cursory footnote. As it omits any details of the van de Velde attribution and instead skips forward a century to Le Prince, Hoisington’s book cannot be described as a comprehensive study of aquatint’s origins.

Regardless of who invented the technique, it flourished throughout Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century, and Hoisington covers this acquatint ‘golden age’ in unprecedented detail, though most illustrations are from the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection. Aside from Le Prince, there are chapters on several other artists, including Paul Sandby, who coined the term ‘aquatint’ in the title of his series XII Views in Aquatinta from Drawings Taken on the Spot in South-Wales. The book culminates with a chapter on Francisco Goya, the artist who “harnessed aquatint’s tonal darkness to his artistic vision like no other.”

03 April 2023

Home


Home

Canadian band Numenorean caused controversy in 2016 by using a post-mortem photograph of a two-year-old girl as the cover for their debut album Home. (On the CD version, the exploitative cover is inside a slipcase.) Kristen MacDonald was killed by her father in 1970, in a well-documented murder case, and the band explained their use of her image in the album’s liner notes: “Perhaps what we are really searching for is the innocence that we once had as a child. However, since we are incapable of ever getting that back, the only place we can perhaps find this comfort once more is in death.”

The first photograph of a dead body on a record cover was perhaps the Dead Kennedys’ single Holiday in Cambodia, released in 1980. The 12" single appropriated Neal Ulevich’s image of a public lynching after the 6th October 1976 massacre. Another notorious lynching appeared on the cover of the Public Enemy single Hazy Shade of Criminal in 1992: Lawrence Beitler’s 1930 photograph of the hangings of J. Thomas Shipp and Abraham S. Smith in Indiana. (This photo also inspired the writing of Strange Fruit, one of the most powerful protest songs in popular music history.)

There have also been at least three examples of severed heads on album covers, released in consecutive years. Pungent Stench’s 1991 album Been Caught Buttering used Joel-Peter Witkin’s photograph Le baiser (‘the kiss’)—a decapitated head sawn in half, appearing to kiss itself—as its cover image. This was followed in 1992 by Naked City’s Grand Guignol album cover, which features a photograph of a decapitated head from the Stanley Burns archive of medical imagery. Then, in 1993, Brujeria bought the reproduction rights to a photo of the head of a murder victim from the Mexican tabloid magazine ¡Alarma! (‘warning!’), for the cover of their album Matando Güeros (‘killing whiteys’).

UK goregrind band Carcass used montages of autopsy photographs as the covers for their albums Reek of Putrefaction in 1988 and Symphonies of Sickness a year later, both of which were seized when police raided Earache Records in 1991. The raid was prompted by the earlier seizure of cover art for the Pain Killer album Guts of a Virgin. That image—an autopsy photo of a woman with her intestines exposed, in a tasteless pun on the album title—was destroyed by customs as potentially obscene. (The uncensored photo was used for the Japanese CD release.) Clearly, goregrind record sleeves are as gross as their titles, and Last Days of Humanity’s albums, such as Hymns of Indigestible Suppuration from 2000, are particularly nauseating examples.

01 April 2023

PTSD


PTSD
PTSD

PTSD, a new exhibition at Cartel Artspace in Bangkok, features paintings and a video installation by Petchnin Sukjan and an anonymous artist who is currently facing a lèse-majesté charge. The exhibition is bookended by Break Your Silence, crowdfunded performances by the Unidentified Theatre group.

PTSD, in this context, stands for “Parliament / Treacherous / Sedition / Dictators”, and the exhibition is an artistic response to state violence and authoritarian politics. The paintings include images of yellow rubber ducks (symbols of the recent anti-government protest movement), which also featured in Jirapatt Aungsumalee’s exhibition Dark. In one painting with a potential symbolic meaning, a blue figure sits in a comfortable chair while another man languishes under his foot.

The five-minute video installation begins with footage of King Rama X being interviewed while on a walkabout in 2020. Journalist Jonathan Miller’s question about the protesters is audible, though the answer—“We love them all the same”—is heavily distorted. Co-curator Tanatorn Kongseng’s artist’s statement could be interpreted as a reply to that comment: “Don’t say you love us if you are still against us”.

PTSD PTSD

The video footage is pixellated, as were images of King Rama IX in Neti Wichiansaen’s documentary Democracy after Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย) and Natthapol Kitwarasai’s short film Coup d’état. It ends with a caption, “THE LAND OF COMPROMISE”, accompanied by the sound of a rubber bullet being fired by riot police. Again, this refers to a comment during the royal walkabout. A music video by Elevenfinger, ไอเหี้ย... ฆาตกร (‘damned... killer’), features a similarly ironic “LAND OF COMPROMISE” caption; the music video and the PTSD video installation both also include footage of violent police suppression of protesters.

PTSD opened on 25th March and closes on 10th April. The first Break Your Silence durational performance took place on 30th March, and another will be held on 8th April.

31 March 2023

Break Your Silence:
An Exploration of Topics Thai Artists Don’t Dare to Talk About


Break Your Silence

Last night, the Unidentified Theatre troupe held a durational performance art event at Cartel Artspace in Bangkok. The crowdfunded project, Break Your Silence: An Exploration of Topics Thai Artists Don’t Dare to Talk About, explored various sensitive social and political issues, and challenged the widespread self-censorship practised by mainstream Thai artists.

The performance culminated with the spray-painting of “112” and an anarchist symbol, in solidarity with a graffiti artist who was arrested on 28th March after he spray-painted the same content onto the outer wall of Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha. (‘112’ refers to the lèse-majesté law, which is article 112 of the Thai criminal code.)

In an artist’s statement, Tassakorn Theratapdhewan (founder of Unidentified Theatre) highlights the undemocratic, violent nature of Thai politics: “we have a government that came to power through the barrel of a gun... This is the reason why the authoritarian government doesn’t serve the people, but rather does everything to silence them and oppress them. The people who protest on the streets are met with violence, tear gas, rubber bullets, and even worse”.

Break Your Silence is part of the PTSD exhibition being held at Cartel Artspace from 25th March to 10th April. (PTSD, in this context, stands for “Parliament / Treacherous / Sedition / Dictators”.) There will be another, more extensive, Break Your Silence performance at the same venue on 8th April, pending a further round of crowdfunding.

30 March 2023

112


The Commoner The Commoner

Posters calling for the abolition of the lèse-majesté law were removed from the National Book Fair in Bangkok yesterday, on the orders of a plainclothes police officer. Staff at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center removed nine posters from a stall run by The Commoner, before the event opened today. The fair runs until 9th April.

The posters featured a “112” logo, a reference to article 112 of the Thai criminal code. A graffiti artist was arrested on 28th March after he spray-painted “112” onto the outer wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. The temple is part of the Grand Palace compound, and therefore a highly symbolic and sensitive location for such a slogan.

This is the third time that police have confiscated items from stalls at the book fair. Last year, a banner featuring hashtags such as #รัฐบาลเผด็จการ (‘dictatorial government’) was removed from the Same Sky Books booth, and t-shirts were confiscated from Same Sky’s booth in 2014. (The Commoner previously published สมุดระบายสีเสรีภาพ/‘freedom colouring book’.)

Anatomy of Time / Come Here / Worship



Anatomy of Time / Come Here / Worship, published this week, explores the making of three recent independent Thai films: Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s Anatomy of Time (เวลา), Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Come Here (ใจจำลอง), and Uruphong Raksasad’s Worship (บูชา). The book gives a valuable insight into the creation of each film: Anatomy of Time is particularly well covered, with a production diary, director interview, and the complete script; there are also long essays by the directors of Come Here and Worship. Early copies of the book come with film posters, and all copies include links to watch the three films online.

Anatomy of Time made headlines this week as, despite its critical acclaim, it was excluded from consideration for the Suphannahong National Film Awards. The awards organisers, the National Federation of Motion Pictures and Contents Associations, now require films to sell a minimum of 50,000 cinema tickets in at least five provinces, to be eligible for awards nomination. These commercial stipulations effectively remove independent films from awards contention.

29 March 2023

End in This Generation


End in This Generation

Karntachat Raungratanaamporn’s photobook End in This Generation was published this week, in a limited edition of 500 copies. Karntachat has photographed the recent wave of anti-military student protesters, and the book documents the protests from 10th August 2020, when Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul called for reform of the monarchy, until 12th December 2021, when demonstrators announced that they had collected more than 200,000 signatures on a petition to abolish article 112 of the criminal code (the lèse-majesté law). (One of the most powerful photographs shows “112” carved into Panusaya’s arm.)

End in This Generation is the latest of a handful of photobooks devoted to the protest movement, the others being There’s Always Spring (เมื่อถึงเวลาดอกไม้จะบาน), EBB, #WhatsHappeningInThailand, and No God No King Only Human. Like No God No King Only Human, it’s a larger, coffee-table book, and—in another similarity between the two publications—its title is one of the protesters’ slogans (ให้มันจบที่รุ่นเรา), aligning the book with the aims of the protest movement.

End in This Generation

No God No King Only Human and End in This Generation both have their fair share of stunning images, though the glossy colour photographs in End in This Generation are even more striking. Unlike in No God No King Only Human, the photographs in End in This Generation are presented in chronological order. Both books provide dates and locations for each image, though End in This Generation also features a timeline of the protest movement.

28 March 2023

Global Ikat:
Roots and Routes of a Textile Technique —
The David Paly Collection


Global Ikat

Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, currently on show at the Seattle Art Museum in Washington, is a comprehensive global survey of resist-dyed ikat fabrics. The exhibition catalogue, Global Ikat: Roots and Routes of a Textile Technique — The David Paly Collection, includes chapters on the history of ikat in India, Africa, Europe, Japan, Asia, and the Americas.

The fabrics in the Seattle exhibition, and those illustrated in Global Ikat, are largely drawn from the private collection of David Paly (some of which he has donated to the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.). The catalogue is significant, though, as the first international history of ikat: the publisher accurately describes it as “the first time all the different iterations of this textile have been comprehensively brought together in one volume”.

The catalogue essays include detailed explanations of regional textile terminology (Japanese figurative designs known as e-gasuri, for example), and there is an extensive international bibliography. The first English-language book to examine ikat dyeing was Jack Lenor Larsen’s groundbreaking The Dyer’s Art: Ikat, Batik, Plangi, published in 1976 and now unfortunately out of print. The best general survey of textile history is 5,000 Years of Textiles by Jennifer Harris.

27 March 2023

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon


Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์), the horror film whose theatrical release was blocked by Thai censors, will be released next month in an edited version, retitled Pook Payon (ปลุกพยนต์). The censors originally gave Hoon Payon a restrictive ‘20’ rating, requiring audiences to show ID before admittance, which director Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon described as crazy (“บบ้าตาย”) in a Facebook post on 9th March. Pook Payon, on the other hand, has been rated ‘18’ after an extra four minutes of contextualising footage was added.

The National Film and Video Committee initially required several edits to Hoon Payon before permitting its release: novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows (as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination), and references to the Wat Teppayon temple were also deemed unacceptable.

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon Hoon Payon / Pook Payon Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

The case echoes that of Karma, a previous Thai horror film that was also retitled to appease the censors; its Thai title was changed from Arbat (อาบัติ) to Arpat (อาปัติ). Pook Payon will be released on 12th April, and Hoon Payon, with its ‘20’ rating, will be released on the same day. (The studio has published before and after shots online to illustrate the changes.) The only precedent for the simultaneous release strategy is the thriller In the Shadow of Naga (นาคปรก), which was also released in both ‘18’ and ‘20’-rated versions.

Five Star, the studio behind Pook Payon, is one of Thailand’s most prestigious film production companies—releasing critically acclaimed films by auteur directors like Wisit Sasanatieng and Pen-ek Ratanaruang—though in commercial terms it remains dwarfed by major studios such as Sahamongkol. In an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul contrasted his experience of censorship with that of Pen-ek: Apichatpong’s film Blissfully Yours (สุดเสน่หา) was distributed by Sahamongkol, and thus received lenient treatment from the censors, while Pen-ek’s Ploy (พลอย)—a Five Star release—was given no such concessions.

25 March 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema
Akira



Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues its weekly cult film screenings tomorrow with Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated cyberpunk masterpiece Akira (アキラ). Previous films in the open-air Arcadia Rooftop Cinema programme have included 2001: A Space Odyssey, Die Hard, Un chien andalou (‘an Andalusian dog’), Videodrome, and Alien. Akira was shown at another Bangkok venue in 2019, alongside Arcadia’s signature film, Blade Runner.

24 March 2023

“It was like setting a time bomb...”



Three people who sold a book about Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protest movement have all been jailed. They were among six people arrested in January, and had been held in detention until their trials began on 17th March. The three pleaded guilty, and they were sentenced on 20th March. In his summing up, judge Peter Law said that the book could have reignited the protest movement: “It was like setting a time bomb”.

Free HK Media founder Alan Keung, who had promoted the book online, received an eight-month sentence. Alex Lee, the owner of the booth where it was sold, was sentenced to five months. Lee’s wife Cannis Chan, who edited the book, was sentenced to ten months.

The untitled 300-page book, featuring photographs of the protests, went on sale on Christmas Day last year at a Lunar New Year fair at Ginza Plaza. It was distributed by the Shame on You Grocery Store (影衰mi杂货店), and forty-three copies were seized by police, who described it as “a seditious book about a series of riots”. (400 copies had been printed by Copyman.)

In 2021, the publishers of the Sheep Village (羊村) series of children’s books about the protests were also arrested on sedition charges. They were sentenced to nineteen months in prison last year, and earlier this month two men were arrested merely for possessing the books.