March, 2014

Conflicted Visions

March 21st, 2014
2 April – 23 May 2014
EXTENDED!
Opening Reception: 2 April 2014, 6pm 

WTF gallery is pleased to announce a contemporary political art exhibition titled ‘Conflicted Visions’ by 7 Thai artists:

Prakit Kobkijwattana 
Sutee Kunavichayanont 
Manit Sriwanichpoom
Pisitakun Kuntalang
Jakapan Vilasineekul 
Miti Ruangkritya
Anonymous
 
Since 2010, political unrest in Thailand has given rise to unprecedented public expression, with almost every demographic in the country voicing often long-repressed concerns and grievances. It has exposed deep divisions in society that manifest themselves in different political ideologies, driven by a powerful urge among Thai citizens to press their position for political advantage, communicate their dissatisfactions, and connect with – or as might be, lose themselves in — something larger than themselves.

 

Conflicting, often self-contradictory definitions of morality, social norms, patriotism and established power have been propagated by those who would harness these concerns, desires and grievances to their own political ends, resulting in a cacophony of competing claims that has polarized the body politic from top to bottom, from grassroots to intellectuals to the highest levels of the social hierarchy. 

 

Inevitably, in a situation which inhibits open conversation or attempts to safeguard monolithic structures, artists and intellectuals from all over Thailand have sought a number of strategies to express their views — be it to criticize official policy, produce propaganda for one side or another, question the doctrines of culture and nation, or dissect mass thinking. Others are less interested in the surface issues in the political arena, but rather in examining their own inner response of confusion, anger, pride or doubt.

 

“Conflicted Visions” consists of works made between 2010 and 2014 by seven Thai artists, new and established, who have worked in different media inspired by the seemingly never-ending political crisis. 

 

Thailand’s most established photographer, Manit Sriwanichpoom, in a series entitled “Obscene Mantra” reworks some of his pre-existing images into a propaganda campaign that criticizes the current government’s attempts to hide policy and performance failures by repeating the mantra of its own propaganda.

 

Despite coming from different ends of the political spectrum, Sutee Kunavichayanont and Prakit Kobkijwattana employ similar mockery of country and mentality, commenting on superficiality, hypocrisy and disorder in Thai society – Sutee with work produced in 2012 as part of an exhibition titled "Crazily Good!", Prakit with his first installation work entitled "Living in a pretentious world, life’s gotta be pop" from 2014.

 

Jakapan Vilasineekul’s installation "Hanging in the Air/Balancing On The Rope" is a metaphoric articulation of the constant shuffle of influential figures jockeying for benefits, which is at the heart of the complex and corrupt Thai political game. 

 

Both Pisitakun Kuntalang and Miti Ruangkritya’s works are based on political speculation and the external and internal frustrations artists are subject to. Pisitkul returns to drawing as a way of documenting unfolding events on the streets, but also as a form of ”therapy’ to help him comprehend the current public and private turmoil. Miti’s series of photographs "Thai Political No 2" (2010) and "Thai Political No 3" (2011) observe of the public’s intense focus on and obsession with key players in the current political crisis — Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva.

 

Lastly, the curator has included an anonymous artist whose works were originally created solely for display in online social media — one of the 21st century’s most effective propaganda tools, which has been fully embraced by the Thai public. The work uses the graphic format from 70s Thai textbook which was the first mandatory reader for all primary schoolchildren. By subverting the book’s benign sunlit world populated by children, their family and its dog, the scenes of aggression and conflict powerfully convey the parallel strains of innocence and deceit, pious cant and hate speech that exemplify the current dysfunctional state of Thai society.

 

The exhibition is not solely intended to articulate artists’ political views or social critique, but is also an attempt to test to what extent an extremely polarized Thai society and artistic community can be brought into a small dialogue in a small space on a small lane along the roaring highway of conflict.