An unlikely muse to art of endurance

An unlikely muse to art of endurance

So what's the latest? Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the draft charter by the Meechai Ruchupan-led Constitution Drafting Committee -- yes, the one with a wholly-appointed Senate and fixed senator posts for armed forces and police chiefs -- is up for the referendum and, I quote, "No one will dare to touch it."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, is planning a "re-education course" for politicians who fail to cooperate even after a series of attitude adjustment sessions. "Personally," said Gen Prayut. "I cannot accept the fact that they still keep criticising."

Well, has it ever occurred to Gen Prayut that there are people out there who "personally" cannot accept the fact that the PM cannot accept the fact that people still keep criticising him?

Such an authoritarian attitude is not unusual for the two generals given their military background. They often accuse those failing to agree with them of being unpatriotic.

Regarding patriotism, Gen Prayut has taken quite an interest in a cultural trends related to love of the nation. After listening to his praise of Korean drama series Descendants of the Sun or his suggestion that the people check out a state-sponsored play about the sacrifice of Thai soldiers titled The Last Blanket, I would like to suggest Gen Prayut also find the opportunity to see a play or visit an art exhibition.

One question which has been debated constantly is whether the art scene, since the 2014 coup, has flourished or actually wilted. Frankly, I believe we are in one of the most creative eras and Gen Prayut has been a muse to the scene.

The play I want Gen Prayut to see, The Test of Endurance by B-Floor's Jarunun Phantachat, is unfortunately over, but given that Gen Prayut is quite eager to support the arts -- the production of The Last Blanket is sponsored by the Internal Security Operations Command -- bringing back the funding for this small performance shouldn't be a problem.  

The Test of Endurance is basically two performers dancing the same traditional Thai dance moves over and over again without stopping. With no air-con on and windows shut, the rule spectators must agree to before entering the show: you can leave the theatre whenever you want but you cannot come back again.

The theatre, thus, is a metaphor for a certain space, a certain situation, and even though you, having bought the ticket, have every right to be in the show, you are eventually pressured to get out and you are made to think the escape is of your own free will.

For the art show, he should go to Chiang Mai-based Mit Jai Inn's new abstract paintings exhibition at Gallery Ver. Even though the series is titled Junta Monochrome, Gen Prayut will find that the works suggest quite the opposite, even somewhat of a parallel universe. A series of massive canvases hung all around the art space are smeared and layered freely with all colours imaginable.

The highlight of the exhibition is the piece in the middle of the space. With a framing structure underneath, leaving a shallow rectangular pool, the artist poured water, turpentine, industrial paint and oil paint into the structure. The piece is a work-in-progress with the water gradually evaporating and paint slowly spreading across the surface.

Like The Test of Endurance, this particular piece is a simulation of a certain space, a certain situation of which perhaps Gen Prayut is more familiar with than anybody else. Mit, as someone with the highest power in his space, has knocked down the tradition of artist as the the sole author of the work of art, instead letting all these different elements -- water, paint, oil, canvas and the air inside the gallery -- take equal roles in creating the piece.

Gen Prayut has to observe that Mit, by allowing these elements -- incompatible as they may be -- to engage in a form of negotiation. The artist has stressed the importance of the strenuous, yet necessary, process of letting things take their natural course.

Along with the question of whether the Thai art scene during the period after the coup has thrived, one must also ask if only artwork which is directly engaged with present social and political situations can be considered "good" and "significant". On this second point, I cannot decide.

What I do know, and believe is good art, is something that never judges and always speaks the truth. The only thing left to do now is wait and see if Gen Prayut says yes to us hanging out and whether these shows are as good as Descendants of the Sun and The Last Blanket.


Kaona Pongpipat is a writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kaona Pongpipat

Writer for the Life section

Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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