insights, ironies and idiosyncrasies in communication and design

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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."