Chloropsis Aurifrons Pridii, 2021
performative lecture, 2 overhead projectors, 1 digital projector, Elmo Visual Presenter, images printed on black and white, books, cut-out colour transparencies, video
In a letter dating July 3rd, 1932, Pridi Banomyong wrote to his wife, Phoonsuk asking for her forgiveness that he didn’t tell her that he and a group of military and civilian members were planning a revolution to transition Thailand from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy. Please think of the nation and the people a great deal, he asked her. I have started on all these things since Paris. Once I had decided to take the step, I could not possibly sacrifice my honor.
Seventeen years later, he and the People’s Party was toppled by a pro-monarchist coup who accused him of being a communist and responsible for the death of King Rama VIII. On the 6th August 1949, Pridi Banomyong fled Thailand on a fishing boat, never to return in his lifetime. Despite his decisive contributions to Thai modern history- drafting of the first constitution of Thailand, founding of the only open-door university of political and moral sciences, organizing an underground resistance movement against Japanese Occupation during World War II- all that remains of him is a pile of scattered papers on his desk.
I grew up learning about Pridi from my great grand aunt, Phoonsuk who moved in next door to us in Bangkok after Pridi passed away. Their family lived in the suburbs of Paris, where we would also eventually end up a few years after my birth.
In a farewell letter from the year 2020, in Los Angeles, I asked for forgiveness from a past lover for not being able to return the books I’ve borrowed. Our encounter was presaged by our common fascination towards the Japanese author, Yukio Mishima who I discovered when I was 19, in Paris. To my astonishment, the last books he wrote, a cycle of four novels called The Sea of Fertility feature Thai modern history as a subplot and explicitly mention the Siamese Revolution of 1932 and Pridi’s name. From there I started to amass visual and written documents on Pridi, using Mishima’s reading of history as a cycle of reincarnations to reflect on my own immigrant journey, the fear of a return to Thailand and the impossible situation of yearning for a person and country that do not want me.
How can the narrative be whole when it is made up of fragmented parts? In a period of one month, I morph and materialize the archive inside the gallery space of Fulcrum Press. Selections from images and text are projected, printed out, blown up, cut up and reassembled as fragments of a narrative that is in continuous flux. Situated in the Far East Plaza, in Chinatown, the walk through the shopping plaza to reach the gallery, is marked by signs of businesses and restaurants in Chinese. Red paper lanterns hang above the interior courtyard. The journey eastward has already begun.