Censors Must Die, Ing K, 2013.
January 29th, 2017. Chinese New Year. In Paris, the traditional festivities which take place in the XIIIth arrondissement are suppressed “for security reason”. Since this summer, before our eyes, Turkey is turning into a dictatorship as fast as the ice cap is melting. As in the 1930s in Europe, should we again see how rapidly the achievements of culture and education can be swept away? This blog is ending as Trumpery is spreading a new storm of chaos, falsification, racism, egoism, self-satisfied ignorance and cruelty all over the world. Since the end of WWII and its promises of reconstruction, how did we regress so quickly? What has to be done, with the weapons of art?
With her usual Witz and energy, the filmmaker Ing K, who for almost 40 years struggles daily against oppression in Thailand, through her blog “Bangkok Love Letter” sends some news and metaphorical principles about censorship and self-censorship.
” In the Thai art world it’s the end of an era too—let’s say the end of Chapter 2 of Thai contemporary art (Bhirasri Institute* having been Chapter 1), with the imminent closure of Chulalongkorn University Art Center, which held its last opening party on January 19 for its last exhibition, ‘Acknowledgement’, a group show of 50 artists who have displayed there since its founding in 1995. The Art Center manager, Ajarn Suebsang Sangwachirapiban, giggled to me, “I wasted time worrying over your work [portrait of Chit Singhaseni’s widow**]—turns out the only problem we’ve had was with Ajarn Apinan’s.” He meant Apinan Poshyananda, the founding director of the Art Center himself, and newly retired Permanent Secretary (#1 bureaucrat) of the Ministry of Culture. Alas it wasn’t the ministry that has blacked out words that form a part of his work, but self-censorship by university eminences.
Trump, Duterte, Thaksin, Mao, Hitler, Mussolini: by their fateful impact these are no ordinary humans like you & me but irresistible forces of destiny, acquiring their exquisitely appropriate form from the emanations of the masses’ secret fears & desires. They have been woven by us from our nightmares to embody our darkest self, which can then be exorcised. As anyone knows who’s ever seen an exorcism movie, you can’t expel the demon until you know its true name.
Like many filmmakers who’ve nursed the fantasy of making an exorcism movie, I’ve done some research for such a script. All sources & traditions seem to agree: Rule #1: Never be tempted to argue or debate with the demon, especially on abstractions & philosophy. He is the master of deception who will weaken & confound you. Rule #2: Focus all your will on forcing the demon to reveal its true face & name. Rule #3: Expel the demon in the name of something sacred, never arrogantly rely on your own powers or make it personal, otherwise disaster strikes. (Let’s see what the obsessive occult fact-checker says about that.)
The cock is crowing. Awake, arise & shine, my friend. Happy Chinese New Year of the Rooster to you, though it might turn out to be an entirely different animal. I overheard a talking head on TV call it the Year of the Fire Swan (“Hongse Fai”). The heedless man might lick his lips, anticipating a delicious outcome, ie. Gai Yang barbecued chicken. But the talking head explained this meant the Phoenix, when long-buried & apparently dead people, stories, secrets & cold cases rise from the ashes. Good luck with that, my dear. Here’s to hoping you haven’t buried anyone or anything that’s still alive.”***
My deepest thanks to Marta Gili, Marta Ponsa and Adrien Chevrot for their generous invitation, to Brad Stevens for his translations, to the readers of this blog, to the admirable artists Bani Khoshnoudi, Ing K, Jocelyne Saab, Tan Pin Pin for the light they introduce into the world. And to grant us a last glassful of courage in these twilight times, let us never forget the meta-hegelian viaticum offered by a brilliant slayer of tyrants and bureaucrats, one of those who, like René Vautier, up to now has won all his fights, the situationist sinologist, publisher, filmmaker and winegrower René Viénet: ” The bird of Minerva reserves its surprises at nightfall “. (Can Dialectics break bricks?, 1972).
* The Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art opens in Bangkok in 1973.
** Chit Singhaseni was one of 2 royal servants falsely convicted & put to death for conspiring to kill King Rama VIII on 9 June 1946.
*** Ing K’s blog, “Bangkok Love Letter”, January 2017