AFTER THE NEWS BROKE ABOUT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS REMOVING THREE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM ‘WHITEWASH,’ A PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY HARIT SRIKHAO HELD AT GALLERY VER IN BANGKOK, THE EXHIBITION HAS BEEN INSEPARABLY ATTACHED TO THAILAND’S POLITICAL SNAFUS.
The fact is, the exhibition doesn’t even align itself with promoting a certain political agenda, but is in fact conceived from the artist’s ‘memories’ of the country’s political situation during a specific time period. The incident is just one of many examples of how today’s younger generation has been victimized by the extreme conservatism of those who are in power.
The exhibition consists of two parts. One features a series of abnormally surreal photographs that are the result of the artist’s own editing technique while the other part is an installation of an archive of notes and a number of the original photographs before they were edited. Srikhao’s view on the lessons as well as camping activities organized by schools that are included as a part of the curriculum of elementary and secondary education is that they have brainwashed children to be the kind of children that grown-ups want them to be. It can be seen from the ideology about sexuality in principles of scouting that promote the value of fraternalism, the cultivation of stereotypical roles of men and women that spare no other alternatives for children to choose who they want to be naturally, or the political ideology being transmitted through lessons at Buddhist camps, specifically how the laws of Karma have been used to justify killings. Srikhao himself recalls and admits the feeling of indifference towards the violence and deaths of the protesters during the 2010 political unrest in Bangkok, which is proof to his own observations.
Viewers who fall in the age range of between 20 and 25 would find Whitewash very relatable, mainly because they have been through similar experiences. If there’s anything strange about the exhibition it is the (unnecessary) apology the artist includes at the end of the catalog, especially when considering that the artist himself is the victim of the brainwashing process. The exhibition will be held until 22nd July 2017, following the same schedule, but for better or worse; the absence of the three works has caused Whitewash to be documented in the history of this country. It is also a confirmation that in Thailand, the art world and the real world do actually connect unlike in the past when we saw many examples of voices from the art world going miserably unnoticed by the people from the other side of the once seemingly parallel universe.
TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA