Mysterious Charm of Karaoke Bars Captured in Photos Saturday

BANGKOK — Whether Oasis, Sweet Dreams or Promising Star, their names often telegraph the ideal or fantasy.

While karaoke bars are often looked down for their seedy, red-lit associations, one artist sees them as refuges for people seeking escape and recovery from long days of toil in a capitalist society.

When photographer Taweewit Kijtanasoonthorn set out to document their interiors, he became part of their transactional ecosystem.

It wasn’t different from the other customers trading money for catharsis inside. He got photos; they got money.

And that made him realize that, in the end, it’s just another part of a society based on exchanges.

“People don’t really look at things thoroughly, while there are so many aspects in one thing,” he said. “If we try to understand things from different perspectives and get rid of bias, we could live peacefully together.”

See the colorful neon bursting from dim streets and other charms of Thailand’s karaoke joints in an exhibition of the Silpakorn University professor’s work launching Saturday.

Seven photos made during a year he spent touring various karaoke parlors, along with videos and neon displays, make up “Karaoke Twilight” on Saturday.

“When I was a teenager, my friends and I felt like it was an adventure to go to karaoke bars,” said the 34-year-old artist from Yala. “But when I moved to Bangkok, my feelings changed as the place grew more mysterious to me. Hidden under daylight, those bars unveil themselves at night to free marginalized people.”

Taweewit will be on hand Saturday to talk about his work starting at 3:30pm. The exhibition runs through July 31 at People’s Gallery on the second floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Get there via connecting skywalk from BTS National Stadium, exit No. 3.