Manit Sriwanichpoom, 55, is one of Thailand's leading contemporary photographers best known for his "Pink Man" series critiquing Thailand's consumer culture. His latest exhibition, "Fear," runs through Sep 10 at Kathmandu Photo Gallery, H Gallery and Tang Gallery and captures the terrors of Thailand's political scene over the past five years through photographs and video clips. Here, we speak to him about the underlying climate of fear in Thailand and what art can do to help break the silence.

How did this project come about?

The three pillars of Thailand, as depicted on the national flag—“Nation – Religion – Monarchy”—have been passing through a tunnel of transition in an unprecedented manner. It's a tunnel that has further dimmed and lengthened after the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] staged a coup d’etat against elected businessmen-cum-politicians in 2015. As my artwork always deals with social, religious and political issues, I believe it is my obligation to reflect the political circumstance to the public on the question of "where are we now?"

What is the reasoning behind the exhibition’s title, “Fear”?

It’s how I believe Thai people feel towards the country’s current political situation, myself included. Fear is always present in Thailand when it comes to politics, not only now but back 12 years ago when there was the war on drugs. The only difference is that today’s fear is something that can’t be discussed.

In a country where so many people fear to talk about politics, what can art do to help?

I use art as a way to reflect my feelings and thoughts of fear. By presenting it, I hope that other people can explore and face the feeling with me. My art may not offer any concrete solutions to problems, but I hope it encourages us to find solutions together in a peaceful manner, rather than through violence. Either way, something must be done—we must start speaking up. We can’t just let the "powers that be" terrify us forever. 

What impact do you hope that this exhibition will have on Thai people?

This exhibition doesn’t aim to target or attack anyone. It aims to show how the fear came to be, in order to allow us to confront the situation together with awareness and understanding. I hope that people can be open-minded enough to see the good intentions of my work, as I share these images out of care and love for my homeland. As an artist, I use art to communicate my love and concern—I’m not scared to talk about the situation as much as I’m scared of the truth of the situation.

This exhibition will also run in Singapore. How do you think the reception overseas will differ from at home?

I hope this can help overseas audiences to understand our crisis better. From reading and watching news reports, they may have gotten a cooked version about the story of Thailand’s political situation. Hopefully my art can give them a different perspective, one from an ordinary Thai who has no vested interest in politics.

 

"Fear" runs through Sep 10 at the following galleries:

Kathmandu Photo Gallery, 87 Pan Rd., 02-234-6700. Open Tue-Sun 11am-7pm

Tang Contemporary Art Gallery, The Silom Galleria, 919/3 Soi 19 Silom Rd., 02-630-1114. Open Tue-Sat 11am-7pm

H Gallery, 201 Sathorn Soi 12, 085-021-5508. Open Wed-Sun 10am-6pm; Mon 10am-6pm