Thai Soldiers Censor Art Exhibition in Bangkok
By Sonia Yu
On June 15, Thai soldiers and plainclothes officers forced their way into two Bangkok galleries that were hosting exhibitions by two young Thai contemporary artists whose works reflect on their homeland’s political landscape.
The soldiers first visited Cartel Artspace, as they were under the incorrect impression that Pronthip “Kolf” Mankong, who has been convicted of lèse-majesté, was hosting the exhibition "The Shards Would Shatter at Touch," featuring the photography of Tada Hengsapkul. However, Tada had anticipated the solders' arrival, and removed the images from the art space's walls before they could be confiscated.
The military then stormed Gallery Ver next door, where a separate, unrelated exhibition by Harit Srikhao was taking place. They took down, without explanation, three photographs, a sketch and a seven-page note that was part of the show "Whitewash." The exhibition's works had been inspired by the “Big Cleaning Day” activity, which took place on May 23, 2010 in Bangkok, where the streets were flooded with a white cleaning agent meant to remove all filth.
“I’m not sure what the reasons were,” but what happened “was not beyond expectation,” Harit told Thai media outlet Khaosod after the misunderstanding.
In fact, the military had been misinformed about Tada's exhibition at Cartel Space, although it remains unclear as to why Harit's works were seized instead. Pronthip Mankong had not pariticipated in organizing or hosting "The Shards Would Shatter at Touch," but instead the show featured a photograph of her visage that had been taken without her permission. Upon realizing this, Pronthip published a critical article in Prachatai, a Thai online news platform known for its progressive and anti-establishment stance, about Tada's unethical practice and his history of using her images of political prisoners’ portraits without permission. Tada has also previously been accused of stealing images from the internet for his own use.
Sonia Yu is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.
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