“Wooden Supports for the Faith: Extending the Life of Democracy”
Note: The Soon Silpa Cherd Chu Ponlamuang Dee Haeng Pratet Thai, together with the Coordinating Committee for the 30th Anniversary of 14 October (the People’s Party) brought these traditional wooden supports, an expression of Lanna culture, to rest against the base of the Constitution at the Democracy Monument in hopes of extending the life of the Thai democracy.
[Problems of the Celebrants]
It is true that the period of celebrations for the 30th anniversary of 14 October had already passed, and also that the 30th anniversary celebrations had some problems and many new and different opinions. There were issues about the truth of history, about efforts to change history, problems of conflict with the city government and where the observances could take place, as well as some questions about the objectives of the event, about the ideas and the changed social context, etc.
In the midst of these uncertainties, art and culture was another issue about which there were arguments among numbers of people who saw themselves as ‘ October folk’ as well.
Note: Wooden supports like these have been propped up against sacred trees inside Buddhist temple compounds as symbolic expressions of good will for a long and fruitful life of the faith.
[Changing ideas in the artworld]
Some things have been happening in the artworld. These things did not happen suddenly, though there have been various indications which showed that ideas have been changing. One such case, well worth consideration, is the work called ‘Extending the Life’ [สืบชะตา] .
Matichon published pictures along with the following description: The Soon Silpa Cherd Chu Ponlamuang Dee Haeng Pratet Thai [i.e. Art Center to Honor Good Thai Citizens], along with the coordinating committee for the 14 October 30th Anniversary Celebrations (the People’s Party), brought these wooden supports representing Lanna culture, to prop up the base of the Constitution of the Democracy Monument. They did this on 11 October, 2003. It is a way of extending the life of the Thai democracy.
[The artist Kraisorn at the Democracy Monument: Interpretation]
In the picture, we can see the artist, Kraisorn Prasert, with the working group team. Together, they place the wooden supports around the monument. All symbolizing mutual aid and support, these wooden supports call the people to an enduring and stable democracy.
[Relevant critical theory]
This work of art and other related works which reflect changes that have taken place since October 14, 1973, if we are to evaluate them, we ought not to use old classic academic theories of beauty to explain. The choices of art go beyond theoretical frameworks of color or art elements, and one should not apply theories of human anatomy to critique and analyze wooden poles.
[it is re-contextualisation.]
One interesting thing is that this work is an image reflecting ideas which cross over paradigms, cross over time and space, allowing new interpretations.
[Traditional Lanna Culture of the North]
Traditions are practiced and passed on from past to present. Traditions become culture…I had a chance to do some formal merit-making as a Buddhist at Wat Phrathat Haripoonchai Wornmahawiharn, in Lampoon province, and I went on to Lamphang and Chiengmai during the APEC conference. These ‘wooden supports’ blessing the future of Buddhism were sometimes used to symbolically support the Po tree, which is a Buddhist symbol. Small or large, the poles reflect rank and faith in quantitative terms, but the objective is always to represent a pillar of support for the [Buddhist] culture of the Lanna people. They support each other, bracing up Buddhism. Kraisorn Prasert looked to Lanna culture and to the wisdom of the local people. ‘Wood-supports’ in the context of religion are brought to use in a political sense and are brought to express new meanings.
[Interpreting the work of art - critiquing official culture]
New meanings reflect changing associations between community culture of Lanna with political culture of democracy from the West. It is a way of holding ones head up in the face of Western culture, to stand more firmly than before… it refers to the meaning of equality and the dignity of culture. The work critiques official culture, suggesting that there are a variety of important cultural currents, not only the culture disseminated by the state apparatus.
[ The work is an installation, temporary, remembered.]
Today the curtain has already fallen on this installation work of art. The Democracy Monument no longer has it’s wooden supports of loving good wishes, and the fortunes of democracy in Thai society remains to be seen. Kraisorn’s installation, ‘Extending the Life of Democracy’, had no opportunity to be collected in an art museum, and no prize was awarded to it. [This vanishing and the absence of any great celebration of what the work accomplished] is not so very different from [the fate of] the lost heroes who have left us but live on in the hearts of the people.