Pratchaya Phinthong

gb agency
18 rue des 4 Fils
May 28, 2015–July 18, 2015

Pratchaya Phinthong, Who will guard the guards themselves, 2015, light box, Duratrans, steel frame, 63 x 79".

Rice, sun, parking spots, teeth, 7-Eleven—these are the elements that form the matrix of Pratchaya Phinthong’s current exhibition carved from the unstable contours of contemporary Thailand. For instance, Internal rhyme, 2015, is a set of nine drawings of the artist’s teeth, based on the sensory observations of his fingers guided by his tongue. These were made near Paris, outside the final home of political exile Pridi Banomyong, who attempted to overthrow his native country’s monarchy in 1949.

Phinthong knows well how to entangle political exigencies with conceptual precision. In the larger room of the gallery hangs a single photograph of an eerily ambivalent scene—an illuminated, empty 7-Eleven storefront during the curfew of the May 2014 military coup. Titled Who will guard the guards themselves, 2015, and printed on Duratrans in a steel-frame light box, it speaks to a siege on the daily lives of Thai people as well as on a bellwether of globalization. Mounted on the gallery’s office wall is also a live surveillance feed—considered part of Who will guard the guards themselves—of an installation reconstructed in a public square outside the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre at eight tenths the scale of the large room here that contains the photograph. Inaccessible to the public during the run of this show, with only a few cutouts in its walls for people to peer through, the structure will afterward become a mobile exhibition space for Thai university students. With this nearly empty gallery installation, like much of his work in which the mechanisms of power, perception, and time are rerouted and derailed, Phinthong restages the dead space of curfew time in order to liberate it from power’s intractability.

— Jo-ey Tang