insights, ironies and idiosyncrasies in communication and design

from the wide, wide world and the world wide web

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

พูดง่ายๆ: มีความรู้สึก

Dujdao Vadhanapakorn Boonyai's (In)sensitivity brings to the fore with great subtlety and sustain both the active and passive dispassion that thwarts our inability to embrace our true selves (and each other, personally, societally and politically) – in theatre and in almost (group) therapy.

From a series of bold, visceral, highly psychologically-charged set pieces that crescendo with a litany of defiant responses and on into a tense standoff – an interface of potential mutual harm – and finally, gently, trust, the audience are pulled backwards (literally) and then centre stage (emotionally) and invited 'in' to drop their guard and grasp all.

This is truly powerful stuff and may not just be the best show in town, but arguably some of the best therapy around.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Meaty parents.

Over the last decade or so the most obvious blank in the Bangkok art scene listings has been contemporary theatre, though now the burgeoning B-Floor, Crescent Moon and Democrazy groups are filling the gap – and in spite of what the critics may think, there really is plenty to chew on.

Employing documentary-style video, mock-interrogation interview skits parodying the brutality of both state and public judgment, before breaking out into farce in the form of a frenzied TV gameshow, Nophand Boonyai’s Adoption exposes the shortcomings of parents and would-be parents before unravelling into a participatory forum of reality TV with randomly-selected judges from the floor, putting the audience firmly centre-stage.

The meat of the discussion of the current performance at Democrazy comes in many courses. Not only are the parental shortcomings and the tendency of offspring to function as a desired commodity addressed, but so too is our own 'adoption' of parenthood itself as a means by which we advance – and indeed, too, measure
 – our own individual standing and success. 

It is though the presentation of Boonyai’s ideas that make real food for thought. And he achieves this not just by – like a generous parent – bestowing upon his gifted cast the sort of freedom (through improvisation) that all actors – like children – desire, but by actually being brave enough to ‘adopt’ himself random audience members. This is the director’s masterstroke: to allow the audience to demonstrate 
themselves his most meaty point. And so they do – so very keenly. As ad hoc judges they appear more ill equipped for parenthood still than any of the characters, which brings home heavily the eternal verity that the very universal defects of character, the follies and vices, the flawed nature of the human condition are to be found in us all.

At turns a biting tragicomedy and a bold, but endearing social commentary, Adoption is accessible, engaging, at times delightfully absurd, but ultimately a very profound piece of theatre.

Image credit: John Green via Nophand.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Brief encounter.

My now chronic bête noire with book covers means that other than stare daily at my copy of Seven Hundred Penguins or flick through Joe Kral's Flickr collection I have to either hunt down a used edition for every single copy of whatever it is I want to read or forever enter the bookshop with trepidation.

The more than tolerable alternative to the very pleasing growing shift towards Penguin reissuing titles that evoke the old Penguins of the mid 20th Century though has done quite a lot to allay my fear of being forced to read a book with a cover I simply detest. Enter Mini Modern Classics – brief bites of storytelling ranging from Beckett to Camus, Kafka to Saki to Woolf in bold, stark, silver modern livery.

This set of fifty titles also work well if you’re trying to wean yourself back onto narratives of 140 characters+ from a life of ceaseless microblogging, Ulysses now more than ever strikes you as too daunting and you find flash fiction more of a, er, flash in the pan.

And what's more, it's not just the design or brevity that's appealing. The tiny form of these Mini Modern Classics is clearly here no small factor: they are easy to pick up and slip into your back pocket and out again – that is if you don't get to finish the tale (sometimes only a few pages long) in a single leg of your daily commute.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The right tone dialed.

Rather than the usual publicity tour or even the more progressive book trailer, to launch her new collection poet Heather Christle, at set times every day throughout the first half of July, will read a poem to anyone who calls her.

Turning her back on online verse via digital social media platforms for a communication channel far more personal, Christle has decided to opt for what she herself describes as the "...intimate distance a telephone creates." How fitting.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Man beats dog.

In spite of the dismal failure of their ‘no-vote’ stance there was unquestionable insight behind the biting political satire of the PAD faux-election campaign. Utilising deeply-rooted, colourful idioms and featuring a menagerie of 'wild beasts' – buffalo, tiger, dog, monitor lizard, crocodile, and monkey – to underscore the growing suspicion that neither government nor opposition could be trusted, the PAD posters succeeded in rousing the populace like never before, but ultimately failed to match the level of execution of a witty Punch cartoon or a emotional Adbusters DIY pop-up and will be forced now to bow to another hound.

And while some marketing points, too – and a couple of seats in the house to boot – must go to the slimy, obnoxious and brutal (but brutally honest) massage parlour tycoon Chuwit for not using a sledgehammer in his paraphernalia, it was Yingluck Shinawatra, somewhat regrettably, that really triumphed – in terms of branding as well as votes.

Much has been written about Yingluck’s campaign and an unprecedented amount in English – mostly concerning poster execution. And while I would obviously side with Baker over Somtow, the poster in question itself is really no great wonder (the reduction of the size of her family name aside) – a well-styled, well-lit, retouched studio shot will always easily outshine the staid graduation head shots and cheap and cheery expressions in wind cheaters we’re used to seeing during election season in Bangkok. Here though truly, it’s the strategy and not the execution that stands out.

Admittedly since the Obama campaign, not has there been this kind of genius at play. Putting up an arguably attractive woman with a name that reads as ‘girl’, ‘lucky’ and ‘love’ – depending on which language you read it in – for election as your PM candidate to a gravely superstitious audience in a world dominated by lazy, corrupt men is the single most cunning political maneuvre in Thailand since probably her brother was last in the country.

As evil as he may be, and as feral and savage, Thaksin has pitted and won with human intelligence over animal instinct, and worryingly has continued to leave many drooling, so in need of a leader, they lap it up.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Dark forces.

Untitled, 2010 by Simon Brewer from a collection entitled The Necessary Tension of Possibility.

It's really no coincidence that I draw inspiration from the same bleak corner of the soul as this talented London-based photographer. Indeed, part of his assertion is that lurking in the DNA of all brothers and sisters is a shadowy predilection. With my brother and I it seems manifest – quite innocuously – in a regular fondness for aesthetic and thematic darkness, rather than with outright evil; with his ‘brother’ – the subject of this set of photographs and accompanying essay – brother of the Khmer Rouge, chief executioner Kang Kek Iew, or as he was known by his nom de guerre Comrade Duch, the contention in full is that with all humankind there is as much a propensity for good as there is a propensity for evil.

To some this is startlingly brave optimism; to many it would be dismissed – as would all the surviving members of the regime – in order to as Earnest Becker says to escape from evil, as part of the very expression of flight from death itself. The artist Simon Brewer, meanwhile, pursues in this work that is to become his first solo show, what Thomas Aquinas posited nearly eight-hundred years ago, that “Nothing that is wholly evil can exist.” This, Brewer maintains, “...presents itself most strikingly in the context of the most abhorrent of acts.” which explains, at least in part, the lure of Duch.

Shot at the scene of multiple atrocities, the Tuol Sleng prison, more commonly known as S-21, but previously a French Lycée, while Duch was on trial, Brewer’s work demonstrates an awe-inspiring vision: his ability to capture the tension between apprehension and exposure in warm daylight hues and the darkest shadows of solid, imperceptible nothingness. His contrasts between neat lines of orderliness of what once was a school room, and the crude, almost cancerous brickwork of the torture chamber annex with its brutal, butchered holes further stress what the photographer himself states as, “...(the) conflict between forces of good and evil manifest in the human psyche...”

What if though this is a battle without surrender? Are we to become Hopkins' carrion?

"Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year /
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God."

Monday, 16 May 2011


I usually steer away from talking about music, only because it’s said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture, though on witnessing the pure magnetizing, religious experience of Japanese band Mono live – the shift from quiet to quiet to loud and from dark to light, at once lush and terrifying, the silence in between the notes (as an apparent tip of the hat to John Cage), the narrative quality of subtle light colour changes, the sitting, the stirring, the counting of notes and the majestic splendour of it all – I’m forced to try and put it into words and I’m still left wanting.

I’ll shut up now.

Images via Stereotypingmusic and

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Firmly planted.

After unsuccessfully fencing the area off and bringing the heavies in to no avail, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, guardian of footpaths all over the city, have turned to a rather self-defeating measure to keep away the über-popular throng of post-9pm Siam street vendors along the Rama 1 roadside from continuing to flog their fashions.

Not only hasn’t welding a 200-metre molehill-like plant bed slap bang in the middle of the sidewalk deterred vendors from selling their wears – shirts, bags and the like are hung nightly in, on and around the monstrosity – it of course severely impedes the pedestrian thoroughfare at all times of day.

In short: both sides are planted firmly; neither side will budge.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Just shit.

Iran might think the 2012 Olympics logo represents a veiled pro-Israeli conspiracy in support of the installation of Zion, but Britain’s dislike for the pink jagged design, even after three years of getting used to is simple: the man on the street just thinks it’s shit – as he has now expressed graphically with bill posters around the capital.

Via Crackunit.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ugly is the new Biutiful.

Through largely dropping his now trademark interwoven, non-linear syuzhet and wiping all but a hint of the familiar counterpoint of the American dream from the script (mere talk of a ski-ing holiday in The Alps as opposed to a model career, middle-class family planning or adventure tourism), Biutiful is a leaner and also meaner Alejandro González Iñárritu film – more visceral and possibly more disturbing than any other.

And this shift is not, it seems, an anomaly.

Even this year’s Academy Awards – the self-congratulating farce that they are – featured a swath of bleak contenders. With Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole and The Fighter there is a discernable move towards the raw, the mournful, the fierce and the vulnerable.

And A Winter's Bone is still yet to come to my local screen.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Not all white.

Seemigly bound so securely by the artificial nationalism of Thaification, caught up in the wave of now rampant fanatical patriotism and oblivious to the frailty of the once disparate fragments that comprise the modern-day nation-state of Thailand, Bangkok-based advertiser Oishi saw it fit to castigate it’s own sisters (and brothers) in public.

Playing with the mechanics of such (BTS) signage that suggests you give up your seat for the handicapped, the old and the ordained, the banner ad read, quite shockingly, (in translation): This seat is reserved for white-skinned people. The desired effect of the pink Oishi amino drink was to appeal to the believed widespread desire to attain bright, glowing white skin.

Fortunately, a large enough proportion of the population are happy with their skin as it is and via a local online weboard community successfully petioned to have the offensive banner removed.

Image/graphic via TMRC.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Producing soap from beer isn’t new, but when Singha extend their product line to include such a body care product, it does make one wonder if it was achieved without changing any of the (essential) product ingredients in a cunning reappropriation of raw materials.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sneaky hollow.

A growing trend for provincial hotels Asia-wide it seems is to

plough all of the renovation budget into a boutique styling of the facade and lobby, whilst leaving the rooms themselves (several storeys up) in their original thread-bare state – a reality you only witness after you’ve paid upfront.

But who cares though as long as everyone on the street thinks you're staying somewhere swanky?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Bare necessities.

Although demonstrating Tippex's product benefit with bleeding-edge freshness, (by combining playing with its media environment in a way only previously seen with the Cyberbullying Cry of the Dolphins spot and offering up the kind of open-ended narrative options that are usually the preserve of Choose Your Own Adventure lit,) A Hunter Shoots a Bear is sadly seriously blighted by the one necessity of all great dramatic storytelling – solid, natural acting. The hammy, over-wrought voiceovers we get seriously and frustratingly undermine what is otherwise brilliant piece of work.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Good put down.

Bar the slightly over-cooked musical crescendo, the super-crisp shirt and cakey make up,Thai mobile carrier DTAC hit a tone almost pitch perfect with Disconnect to Connect to bravely suggest that consumers use their phones less.

Monday, 15 November 2010


With Dot – featuring the world’s officially smallest stop-motion animation character – W+K again demonstrate the kind of mad dedication one needs to produce truly outstanding work.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A waste of energy.

Like many, I found 10:10's No Pressure film offensive – but unlike most my contentions were its weak creative mechanism and the advertiser's u-turn rather than its supposed bad taste.

For ads with vignettes such as these to have any true relevance they need to be linked to a strong and specific end line that leaves a clear takeout for the audience – not open-ended, throwaway gags or comedy shock tactics. Such, I suppose, is the gulf between TV and TVC. Richard Curtis directed.

Add to that the equally totally inexcusable explicit, public admittance of having “missed the mark” (not part of a pre-planned PR stunt as the initial pulling of the film perhaps was) and you are left with the biggest waste of energy I've seen in a long time.

(Worth seeing just for the controversial blood and guts though obviously.)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sign of the times.

In the shadows of the vandalism and theft of Bangkok's Ratchaprasong sign, the city is seeing a new breed of street insignia spring up, with the specific goal of duping the motorist as s/he snails forward in the gridlock.

With marketing real estate at a premium and anything now fair game it seems, brands are taking ever more desperate measures to get under the radar and into the consumer psyche – even if it means stealing legitimacy from the highways as this cheeky invasion of corporate signs in disguise testifies.

And while one can understand how hospitals and even hotels justify their street presence – condominiums and golf clubs clearly have no place on the road, though the community is admirably it appears answering back en masse directly with self-authored content.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Spot the dummy.

Not the first time the boys in brown have enlisted body doubles, the Thai police nationwide have begun to plant wounded mannequins, their twisted torsos smeared in fake blood, alongside right-offs as a part of an innovative deterrent to scare motorists from being, er, real dummies and driving drunk.

Photography Gary Inman. Retouched by THEC.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Last but not least.

Dixons: Middle England

Moulded in the self-effacing image of Avis and owing much to the banality of a particular line of Alan Partridge bedroom banter, this piece of M&C Saatchi print – promoting Dixons' online-only, low-cost store – is an authentic, distinctive and daring piece of branding that brings the call for action to the fore.

If only the message too was executed in a more dynamic medium, it would have surely won big at this year's Cannes Lions.