Art and the monarchy

30 03 2018

Usually, when art and monarchy are linked in Thailand it is to heap false praise on the (now dead) King Bhumibol for his average painting or to regard Princess Sirindhorn’s childish scrawls and photos as great art.

This time, however, we point to an article in Playboy on Harit Srikhao.

The story begins:

Thai army soldiers entered an art gallery in downtown Bangkok one June day in 2017 and forcibly removed several pieces by the photographer Harit Srikhao. The 22-year-old’s work had clearly touched a nerve with Thai authorities, although he’s still not exactly sure why he was targeted by the dangerously overzealous critics.

“I’ve been offered a lot of explanations, official and unofficial alike, but none of them make sense,” he says. “It just goes to show the lack of freedom of thought in my country, and how ridiculously the government use their power to bully citizens. Most importantly, it is an affirmation that art is indeed a very, very powerful weapon.”

The reason, though, is pretty clear in his works:

His pictures depict a fantastical world in which traditional hierarchies are upended, the sanctity of the Thai monarchy is punctured and government propaganda images are rendered absurd. He alters his own photos by cutting and pasting by hand in hopes of revealing a deeper truth: “I use hand collage instead of Photoshop because I want to perform surgery on the pictures.” He explains, “I want to show the traces of how reality has been made oblique.”

From Harit’s Mt Meru series, at his website: https://www.haritsrikhao.com/home

Harit refers to his political awakening:

It changed for me after Thailand’s thirteenth coup d’état in 2014…. I began to research the political history of my country and I was shocked by how coldblooded I had been to support a government who used violence against protesters in 2009 and 2010. I realized then that I had been listening to right-wing propaganda, which diminishes the value of humanity, for a very long time.

This political awakening inspired Harit’s work:

… a series called Mt. Meru … takes its name from the sacred mountain that is considered to be at the centre of the universe in Hindu cosmology. “The words ‘centre of the universe’ describe the subject matter of my work very well…. Attempts to discover the meaning of life, and the afterlife, through karmic law genuinely influences everyday life and the political landscape in Thailand.“ In fact, … the Thai royal institution uses the cosmology to justify the monarchy’s sustained power and rights. “People who believe that they’re the ‘centre of the universe’ can be seen all over the world and throughout history. It’s the belief behind every dictator.”

In one of Mt. Meru’s many striking images, three figures in white robes with faces obscured place a regal Thai crown onto sloppy handfuls of bloody organs. The image is titled: ‘The Coronation of Brukhonenko’s Dog’, a reference to the Soviet scientist who became infamous in the 1930s for his attempts to keep the severed heads of animals alive. Srikhao explains that the image is an assault on entrenched hierarchies such as the monarchy.

For all of this, Harit is “optimistic that the political situation in Thailand can change for the better.” He observes:

“Many young people in Thailand can see a beautiful image of a better future illuminated, but the light is coming from outside and entering through a pinhole. We have dreamed about a democratic and peaceful world for quite some time, but is that just an illusion? I think we need to destroy this box that we’re living in. The box is very old, and it will decay from the termites we call ‘time’.”

We hope he’s right.


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11 05 2018
Weird and freaky | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] a title clipped from an article about Harit Srikhao’s art work. We have posted on him before. His art reflects his discovery “that his life was built on the lies of state propaganda. […]

11 05 2018
Weird and freaky | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] a title clipped from an article about Harit Srikhao’s art work. We have posted on him before. His art reflects his discovery “that his life was built on the lies of state propaganda. […]

15 05 2018
Weird and freaky I | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] a title clipped from an article about Harit Srikhao’s art work. We have posted on him before. His art reflects his discovery “that his life was built on the lies of state propaganda. […]




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