1079 1931 1582 1494 1203 1638 1379 1223 1065 1688 1161 1851 1726 1418 1215 1468 1540 1604 1818 1701 1780 1567 1148 1489 1104 1596 1651 1072 1434 1954 1752 1945 1821 1413 1645 1660 1453 1584 1016 1817 1251 1388 1858 1279 1951 1941 1654 1994 1432 1113 1520 1502 2000 1575 1160 1138 1803 1313 1987 1952 1825 1639 1777 1954 1038 1287 1841 1532 1876 1857 1498 1447 1521 1961 1353 1444 1805 1656 1716 1791 1676 1313 1867 1356 1952 1779 1207 1750 1987 1235 1623 1516 1762 1009 1781 1233 1878 1974 1392 "Uncensored": A Liberation Manifesto of Thai Artists in an era of Dictator | Freedom of Expression Documentation Center | ศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายและคดีเสรีภาพ

"Uncensored": A Liberation Manifesto of Thai Artists in an era of Dictator

On 7 July 2019, A group of independent​ artists came together to put on an art exhibition with one primary purpose, “annoy” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Headache Stencil, a popular graffiti artist, and Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD), a politically active hip hop group, co-organized​ this event titled Uncensored. The event was lively, attracting many visitors throughout the day to admire a diverse range of visual art and to listen to the impressive musical performances.
Featured artist’s gathered for a group photo
In conversation with Headache Stencil, he explained that though the original motivation for the event was to irritate and gain the attention of the current Head of State, he hoped those attending his event would take away a more positive message. He explained that this exhibit was meant to demonstrate the opportunity that exists for everyone to speak on the political injustices of today. He discussed his hope that those in attendance see that making expressive art should be accessible to everyone and that everyone should feel inspired to create even in the face of reduced freedom, “Art should not just be a tool for the artist. It should be a tool for everyone”. In this same vein, Headache Stencil explained the importance of having a space for art therapy at the event for people to experiment and express themselves.
The event was held at The Jam Factory, in an outdoor space. The perimeter of the venue was decorated in pieces of art from a variety of artists, with a stage in the center for the performers. One mural that gained a lot of attention from viewers depicted a simple black background with incredibly intricate decorative calligraphy. At any given time, there would be a small gathering of onlookers trying to decode and read the challenging lettering, if they could successfully decipher the script it read ‘‘The state calls its own violence, law; but that of the individual, crime” - a quote for anarchist German philosopher Max Stirner (As quoted in The Great Quotations (1960) by George Seldes, p. 664). Whether or not it was intended, the way this artwork presented itself shared an interesting parallel with Thai politics at the moment. To an outsider, Thailand may look like it’s back on track with democracy with its recent election. With closer observation, like with the mural, something more honest and substantial exposes itself. Thailand’s political system only passes as democratic on the surface, a rigged election system, a stifling interim constitution and the silencing of critics, just begins to describe of the ways Thailand government today fails to represent its citizens.
Mural created by Headache Stencil. Caligraphy reads: ‘‘The state calls its own violence, law; but that of the individual, crime”.
Another standout visual piece at the event was set up as a photo opportunity for those in attendance. The interactive art piece featured a 1m2  area of ground roped up off with caution tape and a box floating at head height in the center. Onlookers could enter the roped-off area and stand under the box to hide their face. Hanging from the caution tape was a sign that read ‘free speech zone’. This work touched on a topic that Thai political artists are incredibly familiar with, anonymity as a source of freedom. Many predominant Thai artists, including some featured at the event, create and showcase their work anonymously because the risk of persecution is too high without cloaking their identity. Though the name of the event was Uncensored, many in Thailand feel that if they do not self censor their words and actions then they must censor their own identity for their own safety.


Guest in attendance of event posing in designated “Free Speech Zone” 
It was not just the visual art at the event that was so thought-provoking. Musical performances that went on for the second half of the event were equally captivating, drawing in a huge audience that stood enthusiastically chanting and clapping along. Though throughout the event individual members of RAD performed solo tracks, it wasn't until near the end of the expedition that the collective performed their most well-known song together, “What My Country Has Got,”. This song was released by the group in October 2018, upon its release the music video went viral and quickly became an anthem for resisting Thailand’s military rule. With lyrics like “Parliament house is the soldiers’ play yard. The charter is written and erased by the army’s boots”, this song was a courageous release for when it was produced and even now, despite having had an election since, people continue to chant along, still finding honesty in the words.

Headache stencil addressed the crowd gathered to watch musical performances by Rap Against Dictatorship.
The politicizing of art is something that has been on the rise since the 2014 Coup d'etat. As free speech has become more repressed, many artists have put their own freedom on the line for the sake of political commentary. Both of the headlining artists at this event, RAD and Headache Stencil, have had experience with attempted censorship and threats from the military. Still, they continue to make art. Though this was the first collaborative political art event organized by Headache Stencil and RAD, Headache Stencil insisted it would not be the last. The overwhelming support by those in attendance and the desire of many artists to participate in the future indicates that there is plenty more political art to be made and observed by the people in Bangkok.
Article type: