[ A Provocative Eye ]
Manit Sriwanichpoom uses photographs to skewer the failings of contemporary Thailand, from the rise of bland consumerism to the country's economic mismanagement
By Michael Vatikiotis/BANGKOK
"RECESSION IS ANOTHER FORM OF WAR" , declares Manit Sriwanichpoom. It's a typically outrageous statement from the 41-year-old artist, who uses photographic images to wrestle with Thailand's economic boom and spectacular bust, often borrowing images of victims of war to portray the changing fortunes of the Thai consumer and office worker.
Take his Pink Man series. Each of these photo-montages
features a portly man dressed in lurid pink, usually accompanied by a
shopping cart or a mobile phone. At first, Manit posed the Pink Man in
front of familiar places, a temple or some ruins.
"The Pink Man represents the modern conscience,"
Manit explains. "He's the modem Thai consumer. He's fat and happy
he has a happy life.
Manit responded to the financial crisis of 1997
with his Bloodless War images, which place middle-class Thais in recreations
of iconic pictures from the Vietnam War.
Bad taste? Bangkok art-dealer Valentine Willie,
who is helping Manit with a new show, doesrft believe so: "If s good
to see a layer of humour without losing the bite and edge these images
convey," he says.
Manit has never been content just with exhibifing
his pictures in galleries-they dorit reach enough people, he says.
Despite his outrageous approach, Manit has never experienced any form of official censorship. As Valentine Willie explains, "Of all the Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has taken well to contemporary mediums like video and photography.'
More recently, Manit has been travelling around
Bangkok shooting the abandoned and unfinished office blocks and condominiums
that litter the city.
As ever with Manit, the images are an attempt to
shock people into thinldng about contemporary Thai society.