Peter Nitsch - Wait for Service
Elinros Henriksdotter from Contemporary Talks has been interviewing me about photography and Bangkok. In the following you’ll find a short excerpt – 3 out of 20 questions – of the interview. The interview can also be found on the ART REVIEW Magazine blog.
What is your philosophy as a photographer?
As I have a strong interest in Asia I would describe it with the words of Rabindranath Tagore: “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” For me and my personal work it is important to see the image before I make it and this “process” takes some time. Digital photography has made it easy for photographers to take thousand of pictures, but within those thousand pictures one can get lost and loose the sense-perception of photography, ‘painting with light’. Photography is a lifetime process of seeing and I‘m still learning.
According to your biography, your work mainly communicates “the conflict between Thai identity and the globalized living conditions”. The Thai installation artist Surasi Kusolwong, who is mainly known for his works about social interaction over economic exchange in modern consumer society, said the following in regards to “the consequences of globalization on the people (in Bangkok) and their cultural tradition.”(1): “We are good at adapting but sometimes we are too open. However, in general, we are not worried about this kind of globalization, we just flow flexibly and use it in our own way, meaning and understanding…”(2) How would you describe “Thai identity” and the globalized living conditions?
The Kingdom of Thailand or Kingdom of Siam is the only nation in Southeast Asia which has never been colonized by the westerner. Most of the population is Buddhist of Theravada School. The country has a long tradition of agriculture such as growing rice, vegetable, fruits, gum trees and palm oil. Between 1985 and 1995 Thailand experienced rapid economic growth and became the new industrialized country. With the ongoing westernization and globalization Thai people – mostly the new generation, the youngster – want to take part as well in the economic growth. But I think many people now realize that the consumerist paradigm isn’t sustainable from an ecological and sociological standpoint.
His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej has introduced the philosophy of sufficiency economics‘ 30 years ago to the Thai society. The sufficiency economy theme‘s relevance can be understood at several levels. At individual levels, they provide a sensible approach to economic life and are also helpful at firm and community levels. Nationally, the themes are highly relevant for countries adjusting to rapidly changing global environments. Sufficiency means to have enough to live on. Sufficiency also means to lead a reasonably comfortable life, without excess, or overindulgence in luxury, but enough. Some things may seem to be extravagant, but if it brings happiness, it is permissible as long as it is within the means of the individual, which I think is the only way out.
I have never been to Thailand myself and my conception of the country relies heavily on photography and media. Your documentary work offers the viewer a delightfully intimate peek into the everyday life on the streets of Bangkok. Since Thailand has gained a reputation as a hub for excessive sexual behavior, which is not at all present in your work, I feel that your work is important in terms of bringing forth a broader understanding of Thai culture. How big is the sex industry in Thailand?
You‘re right. Well, you‘ve mentioned it. Ask someone about Thailand and he will tell you about sex tourism or sandy beaches, ask someone about New York and he will tell you about art, design, creativity and many other positive things. The sex tourism industry in Thailand came with the American G.I.‘s during the Vietnam war. The US used Thailand as a hub to Vietnam and to heal their wounds from the war. This is how Thailand gained international notoriety among travelers from many countries as a sex tourism destination. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, although in practice it is tolerated and partly regulated. The sex industry isn‘t much bigger than in any other country, it‘s just MADE bigger than it actually is by word-of-mouth. Thailand has a lot more to offer, the people and the country are so creative. There‘s a lot to discover, if you want to!
(1), (2) Surasi Kusolwong in conversation with Gerald Matt in 2005, INTERVIEWS by Gerald Matt