Thursday, December 2, 2010

Paisarn Terapongwit, ‘Art and Politics – Politics and Corruption.’



Paisarn Terapongwit, ‘Art and Politics – Politics and Corruption,’ in Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly News magazine, 28 Dec. 2007 – 3 Jan 2008, Yr.55, Vol. 14.


Before this year end issue of Siam Rath Weekly reaches the hands of readers, voting for new members of Parliament in another important election for Thailand will have finished. As for when the Election Commission will have things in order, it will be many months till we know the results.

What is certain is that what comes next will be a lot of dust raised.
There will be a rush among political parties which have enough voices to push their party heads forward as cabinet ministers and try to form a government. Will they come together into the marble halls to do their duty, managing and cutting up the cake so that every group and every side gets a satisfactory answer?


The honorable Thai people who are bowed and bent as they bear the burden of life will have to content themselves
and be patient for a good long time before the company those honorables [in parliament] have enough free time to turn back and take an interest in ‘moms and dads, brothers and sisters,’ and set to work untangling our people’s problems. And it looks like they will continue to play an important part, if nothing changes, especially until those honorables ‘see the heads’ willing to bow and scrape in the period before entering the polling booth. [translator's note: this paragraph may have some problems]

In this period, the art circle in Bangkok, Thailand has two exhibitions presenting stories about ‘political’ points,
exchanging and sharing points of view, opinions, or political experiences for the interested public.

The first show opened on Tuesday, 11 Dec. 2007, ‘the Art of Corruption,’ in which I took part as curator. The second show, ‘Political Demons,’ of paintings by Somsak Raksuwan opened on Monday 17 Dec. 2007 at the Jamchuri Gallery of Chulalongkorn University.



I am going to focus here on the exhibition in which I took part closely as curator. That was the ‘Art of Corruption’show. As to pictures in the show, ‘Political Demons,’ I was still looking for time to travel to visit it. So, I’m not able to take up an angle on the content of that exhibition of the latest work of Somsak Raksuwan to talk about or critique it.

Talking about the ‘Art of Corruption,’ some readers might wonder why the show had that title. The words don’t mean that the exhibition and the artworks celebrate ‘corruption.’

Those concerned with setting up the exhibition have similar ideas, in the same vein, which is ‘Corruption.’ It has happened in Thai society from the past to the present, and even in the future, tomorrow, which doesn’t have a way to get rid of it. The mechanisms or processes are complex, detailed and tricky. They use science and considerable knowledge in many fields and branches to use in corrupt practices in every shape and form.



Eventually, the law is not able to condemn or catch them. You could say that the ‘root’ and ‘seed’ of ‘corruption,’ which continues to flourish, to worm and gnaw its way in, to insinuate itself destructively into Thai society every day, is the product of the wisdom, skill, and ability of people who have knowledge, ‘brains’, with doctoral degrees, with all kinds of letters trailing after their names. This is not the work of the common people.

‘The Art of Corruption’ is like an ironic word which ridicules the real behavior that occurs in Thai society nowadays. It is an era in which many people yield and accept ‘corruption,’ as if it were a vital part of the body of life. There are processes and mechanisms of ‘corruption’ which people like you and I, all very common, can perceive and hear in ‘politics,’ in ‘voting’ and in arranging things generally.

But it doesn’t mean that escaping political circles will solve the problem of ‘corruption’ because the seeds of corruption seem to sprout in every atom of society, even in what appears to be the undistorted truth. But ‘corruption’ outside ‘political circles’ may have less negative or more limited impact on society than what happens in politics.



Along with the exhibition, ‘the Art of Corruption,’ there is a traditional-style shadow-puppet play, ‘City of Lies: Episode of the Art of Cheating/ Fraud,’ by Wasan Sittiket. An installation, the work of Kamol Paosawat, puts forward a trophy to be presented to ‘the individual with works of outstanding nationwide corruption.’ The photographs of Manit Sriwanichpoom pick up on problems of provincial ‘corruption’and its impact on the lives of children. And the people of a Rayong village make a presentation via illustrations with light and sound.


The work entitled ‘Wallpaper’ by Sutee Kunawichayanont offers a pattern of the words ‘cheat’ and ‘clever’ spread over a whole room, dominating the eye of the beholder. And when the lights go on softly, some reflected images appear - the head of a dog on an oily surface which smells of motor oil. It reeks within a partially-closed, square room, which has been painted a very flat black, by Sakharin Kreua-on. Another work consists of four big pieces of cake by Porntaweesak Rimsakul. The cake is rushed, grabbed, cut, and divided, till nothing is left, before disappearing into anyone elses stomach. Many faces and many eyes are left to look at the remains of things which were hidden inside each piece of cake.



The paintings of Ing Kanchanawanich tell the story of the supposed roots of
‘corruption’ which are passed on through Thai society.
And four other paintings by Pansar Bhuttharaksa reflect a picture of control, cheating, stealing, taking-over by the powerful, with symbols of all kinds of animals of strange and weird form and appearance, twisted and surreal. In the large, inkjet works by Wit Kanchanapongse, questions are posed in a doubtful mode, i.e. if there were no ‘corruption’ in our country’s political machinery, wouldn’t the lives of the people of Bangkok be less difficult? For example, might they meet fewer problems like the traffic jams which they now face daily?

In terms media, there are cartoons by Kwansawong Atipothi, a professor in the Department of Urban Planning, Faculty of Architecture, CU, who arranged the exhibition. These images may enhance understanding, or knowledge of the impact of ‘corruption’ and how it damages society. The artist offers his point of view very simply, but enjoyably, throught brief feature cartoons and animation.

There are eight other types of poster design works which campaign and protest against corruption through the skills and ideas of eight youthful designers, i.e. Konkanut Silpawisawakul, Wichien Toh, Siva Sirisatichai, Santi Laurasawi, Samret Jaruamornjit, Anutin Wongsakkorn, Ekalak Pienpannawech and the ‘Be Our Friend’ studio, which also joined the exhibition.



If the reader is interested in experiencing these works, ‘the Art of Corruption,’ the show will be on from Sunday, 20 Jan. 2008, open daily from 10.30 – 20.00 hrs (except Mondays), free of charge, at the gallery of the Contemporary Art Center (GCAC) on the ground floor, TPI, at the corner of Nathiwat-Rachanakharin street, which intersects with Janton street near the Macro shopping mall. Or you can make inquiries for more details by phoning 02-678-6666.

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