7th November – 17th December 2005
We live in interesting times. Globalisation, as practiced by transnational capitalists, relentlessly expands its empire and overwhelms local economies. The War on Terror, as waged by the leaders of the United States of America, along with suicide bombing by international terrorists, spreads like an epidemic across the world. In the three troubled Southern provinces of Thailand, innocent lives are being sacrificed in daily acts of violence. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai Party have become all-powerful as they adopt a CEO administrative style and pursue a neo-nationalist agenda; as the battle rages between this representative of Thai capitalist interests and royalist conservatives over the people’s hearts and minds.
Now is the ideal moment for reflection; for us to pause and reexamine, to explore our own ideas and understanding of the concept of ‘nationalism’. What is nationalism, really? We should do this lest we fall prey to nationalistic consumerism, or start running around accusing other people of being “traitors to their nation”.
As Vasan Sitthiket, one of the artists represented in this exhibition, says:
“I want to give us pause. I want to say: please, I don’t want to be a nationalist like you, if nationalism means having to be narrow-minded, prejudiced or hateful towards people who think differently… How can we be more accepting of our differences? [Our ability to co-exist]—this is the thing that speaks of culture and civilisation. We should be seeking to become more civilised and develop human wisdom. Our rulers shouldn’t be working to keep people ignorant and docile and easy to exploit for the rulers’ own selfish interests.”
This is the well-meaning intent behind ‘Neo-Nationalism’, an exhibition of contemporary politically-engaged art that I and seven fellow artists are staging for your benefit. We’d like our viewers to brainstorm with us; to help us all find a way out of this false and narrow-minded myth-making. Let’s not become anybody’s tool; let’s not fall prey to opportunists. So we can live in peace together in our society.