BANGKOK — In “Conflicted Visions Again,” six artists are gathered to give one message: urging the viewers to question the state of freedom in Thailand.
The exhibition, held at WTF Gallery and Café, is a tour on issues considered by many to be sensitive in Thai society – issues that the media is often discouraged from asking bold questions about – from censorship of discussions about the Royal Family to the mysterious disappearances of anti-monarchy activists.
Inside the gallery, there is a TV showing nothing except an English text saying, “program will resume shortly,” the same words used in real life to black out foreign news broadcasts that may touch on the monarchy.
“I think it’s strange. It makes me feel that they want to hide the truth,” artist Manit Sriwanichpoom said. “It makes issues about the monarchy sound scary.”
Another installation, called “Thailand’s New Normal,” questioned the balance of public safety and civil liberties during the coronavirus pandemic, an era that the government and its regime of revered doctors can impose any policy on the public without any debates.
“Do you want health or freedom” seems to be the choice given to the public by the authorities, without anything in the middle, said Prakit Kobkjwattana, the artist responsible for the piece.
“I think this ‘new normal’ thing is a coup,” Prakit said. “Do I really have to really choose?”
Abduction and murders of anti-monarchy activists who fled overseas is discussed at “Iconoclastor Stickers & Military Track Down,” by Pisitakun Kuantalaeng.
Images of political dissidents who disappeared in neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia are represented as colorful stickers at the exhibit. It seems to imply someone out there is making a collection of those individuals.
The latest victim in the string of unexplained disappearance was Wanchalearm Satsaksit, seen smiling in his yellow sticker here. The bespectacled activist was kidnapped on June 4 in front of his residence in Phnom Penh, where he had lived in exile since 2014.
Although the tone of the exhibition may slant toward anti-government activism, curator Somrak Sila said the artists were picked from different political factions. Somrak said she did it once just before the May 2014 coup, and she succeeded again.
She lamented that Thailand’s political division over the past decade means many artists have refused to participate in productive and civil debate, not to mention holding a joint art exhibit. The gallery wants to show it’s time to move beyond colors and sides.
“It no longer works for them to mud sling one another. The approach should be changed,” Somrak said. “If we do not unite, we can’t fight the powers that be.”
“Conflicted Visions Again” exhibition runs until August 23. It opens everyday except Monday from 4pm to 10pm at WTF Gallery and Café, Sukhumvit 51. Call 02-662-6246 for details.