[ New reality ]

Bali bombing aftermath becomes art as Thai photographer thinks pink

Jakarta-A portly man in a pink suit wheels a pink shopping cart across lndonesia's Bali. It's a comical sight, but there is little cause for laughter in this surreal vision conjured by one Thai artist in the wake of a deadly terrorist bombing.

As Bali this month prepares to mark the second anniversary of the devastating attack on its Kuta nightclub strip that killed 202 people, an exhibition inspired by the aftermath of the blasts finishes showing in Indonesia's central city of Yogyakarta.

In an unusual attempt to explore the impact and causes of terrorism, Thai artist Manit Sriwanichpoom has created a series of photographs portraying a bleak Bali,
where manicured tourist attractions lie empty but for a solitary Asian man wearing a lurid business suit.

The images, says Manit, present a vivid assault on rampant consumer-driven globalisation which has transformed Bali from a tranquil beauty spot into a commercial parody and, in the wake of the bomb, to a ghostly "paradise lost".

"When the bomb went off in Bali, it shocked a lot of people, especially Asian countries who thoughttheywould notbe atarget of terrorism," says Manit, who arrived on the island in the months after the bombing.

"I had visited Bali before and I knew how busy it was, but my plane was almost empty and when I arrived, there were no tourists."

Fears of further strikes from the Al-Qaedalinked Jemaah lslamiyah group which carried out the Bali bombings and other attacks in Indonesia, devastated the island's tourist industry.

While visitor numbers have begun to pick up two years after the Bali attack, the threat of further strikes overshadows the island, particularly following a deadly bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta last month.

Manit says his "Pink Man in Paradise", one of a series of globally exhibited artworks featuring his florid muse, looks at how people, particularly modern Asians, want to experience consumer holidays rather than other cultures.

The consequences are the dangerous dependence of local cultures on fickle tourist markets and the potential to incite a violent extremist reaction.

"Essentially the Pink Man is a metaphor for modern Asian people and how they have become as a result of recent economic booms. But this has become a worldwide problem, the negativity of globalisation.

"Terrorism is not without cause and could be a reaction to this globalisation," he said.
My country, Thailand, is also another holiday destination, where tourism is a major income to the country.

" It made me realise how sensitive the industry is and ask how Asian countries can develop themselves in this way because it is so dangerous that countries rely on the tourism industry."

In one photo, the Pink Man trundles his trolley past a giant statue of the Hindu god Vishnu, part of a large resort complex still under construction on the island, a centre of Hinduism in mainly Muslim Indonesia.

"The people in Bali can do anything, but in the name of tourism, they kill the meaning of their own god," says Manit.

Manit's exhibition generated a flurry of interest in the Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta, where manager Aria said audiences were captivated
by the images.

"They like Manit's presentation, and were interested in the issues, such asglobalisation,"Aria toid AFP.

While his Pink Man series has previously focused on attacking Thai consumer culture, Manit has a track record of resistance to the onslaught of foreign tourism.

In 1999 he led environmental activists protesting against the filming of Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach on Thailand's Phi Phi island, a film which drew thousands of young tourists in search the secluded Andaman Sea location.

But in the final outing for Pink Man,played byThai performance artist Sompong Tawee, the vulgar traveller is used to attack the way Asian tourists behave in the West, appearing with naked Western women in a satirical reprise of French impressionist Edouard Manet's The Picnic.

"In paradise after the bombing, Pink Man is sad and lonely ... In Europe, like some Asian men, he has money and gets what he came to Europe for." AFP