Poetry of Dead, We Are All Alone…When Ghosts Found Us: the art which reflects the failure of fake government sovereignty

By Panu Boonpipattanapong
Matichon Weekly  26 Nov. 2021

During the time of Thailand’s political turmoil, which has been going on for quite some time, the political activists have been pushing together for the true democracy to happen, hoping that it will subsequently increase the quality of people’s life that they deserve.

Even this hope was dimmed multiple times by multiple coups in the past, the fire is being lit again, started by the tinder of the young generation who are full of bravery, creativity, and wit.  One of the many tools they use to fight is art.  Oftentimes, the younger generations use art to express their voices on demanding democracy, expressing their political ideology, or powerfully communicating the twisted reality of Thai society to the rest of the world.

The exhibition “Poetry of Dead, we are all alone…when ghosts found us.” is another attempt of the young generation to use art to express their political views.  The artist, Pare Patcharapa is a graphic designer, yoga teacher and activist focusing on feminism, equality, and democracy in Thai contemporary society.  The artist has been living and working in Chiang Mai for 12 years.      
The work displayed at the exhibition is built from her frustration towards the effect Thai people are left to face, especially the people who had little to no access to public welfare under the dictatorship calling itself the government. The artist feels frustrated seeing how the authority (wrongfully acquired) handled the crisis without any responsibility and common sense in every way possible.

“The work in this exhibition started from my friends and I. We digital-painted to criticize the government in the Facebook group “Illustrator for Democracy”.  I was working as a graphic designer full-time and did some digital painting.  As 2020 began, I started following the protests and many groups of political movements and started painting to express my feelings towards it.”

“I posted them on my social platforms,  starting with the portraits of the youth and students who were the movement leaders by contour drawing.  The art slowly progressed into something that tells a story.”

“I saw the news one day during the time when many had been infected by Covid-19 and died, right before the image of a body in the middle of the street went viral.  On that same day, the Prime Minister held the press conference with the public health team and they were laughing”  

“What I saw made me feel so hopeless.  I felt that we can never depend on the government any longer.  What I saw was the image of people dying and being abandoned.  The city became the city of Gotham, dark and dystopian.  The only light shining are of the shop windows of capitalists taking advantage of us.  It’s a true dystopia.”

Her painting was shared widely on different platforms and it went viral.  However, it was quickly reported due to the dark subject which added no positivity to the society.  
“I felt like this government is never accountable, they always blame the people and make us blame each other.  We didn’t have a way out either as we were left to take care of ourselves and die.  So I transferred my thoughts into the painting and posted it on Facebook.”
“After about 3-4 minutes, the picture was reported and deleted because it was too depressing, to which I think what’s happening is even more depressing.  People were killing themselves due to the stress from the Covid crisis.  Infected people were left to die on the street.  These images were so common.  I ended up posting on Twitter instead and many retweeted it.”

“Until one day Mr. Mitre (Jai-in) saw it and he invited me to exhibit my work here.  He wanted me to hand paint on a canvas with oil so I could sell my work.  I’d never done it before so I was very nervous.  I had only painted digitally or with watercolor on paper.”

“Because I had to do this exhibition, I decided to buy an oil paint course online and practised from there.  There were many trials and errors, but I had 6 months to prepare for the exhibition.  And here they are.”

“The exhibition is also my debut as a professional artist.  After working on this exhibition and being able to sell some of my work, I decided to quit my full time job to pursue the career of a freelance artist.”

The exhibition is showing the works the artist created during the spread of Covid-19 under the failed and inefficient management of the government.
“I wanted the paintings in this exhibition to reflect what the government had done to the people, for example, during the period of lockdown and every restaurant was ordered to close, the PM and the cabinet were seen having lunch on a table by the beach without any masks on.  So I painted them out as the ghosts consuming the offering on the table.”

“I think our country’s media paints the authority figure as someone big (Literally adding the word Big in front of their names).  But what I see is they’re not someone “big” at all, they’re human just like the rest of us.  But they lied their way to power, so I painted them as the hungry ghosts so people who are fighting the state power can have the courage to continue fighting.”

Apart from the painting shown in the exhibition, the artist wanted to show her solitary to call for the release of the protests leaders who were in prison for protesting peacefully through a performative painting called “Star Locket”.  The artist has been at the exhibition everyday throughout the period to create the painting on 3 x 2 meters canvas, which is the size of the prison room the protest leaders had been held in.   

This performative painting is to reflect the fight for freedom in a limited space, and at the same time that the ideology of freedom cannot be held captive in any space.
“Performing this performative painting was Mr. Mitre’s idea, he wanted an activity happening in this exhibition by getting the artist to live and work in this space, which is almost like a prison.  And the artist creates a piece of work to spread the awareness of the activists who are still locked up.  I’ve been here everyday from 1 pm to 6 pm throughout the period of exhibition until November 29th to finish this work, and showcase my work process to the audience.”

We asked her if she thinks art can create any concrete change to the society to which she answered;
“I don’t think it’s just art that can make any changes, but also every field of work, artists, writers, journalists.   For example, what I painted was to express my feelings to what has happened in my surroundings, and when people connect to it and share it in their own context, the work can expand in that way.  My work is done in an open-end way, so anyone can freely interpret it or expand it.”

We asked her about the common saying we often hear that “Art should stay away from politics.”   The artist answers swiftly.  
“I think everything around us is politics, it gets closer and closer to us, affects us to this level and it baffles me that we still can’t talk about it?  I feel that we talk about it less than we should actually! and I’d like to congratulate anyone who can still live their life without suffering the effects of politics.”

“But for me personally, I cannot not do anything.  I think we have to look around and check how the rest of the people are doing, and see if there’s anything we can do t o help.  For example, I painted the activists’ portraits for sale and the portion went into supporting the political movement groups.”

“Anyone who could help, should help.  At least say something about what’s happening in our society, updating their Facebook or Twitter status or whatever.  But to people who say that art should stay away from politics, I think that’s pretentious!”