Critics’ Picks

Olivier Pin-Fat, Woman in Bar. Bangkok, October 2009, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16.”

Olivier Pin-Fat, Woman in Bar. Bangkok, October 2009, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16.”

Bangkok

Olivier Pin-Fat

Kathmandu Photo Gallery
87 Pan Road
January 29–May 2, 2010

Photographic representations of Bangkok usually tend toward one of two poles: seamy or spiritual. The satiric online magazine notthenation.com recently ran a fake-news item about CNN ordering its correspondents to report on current political unrest in Bangkok from outside the “Super Pussy” bar––the joke being that international media coverage typically and gratuitously references this country’s famous sex industry. On the other hand, the tourism authority of Thailand and any number of local photographers and publishers portray Thailand as halcyon, full of Buddhist architecture and enriching experiences.

Olivier Pin-Fat’s installation at Kathmandu explodes this predominant polar opposition through gritty yet ethereal photographs. Inspired by the city’s urban infrastructure and its marginal denizens, the artist’s vision of a netherworld also has an animistic quality. Shots of derelict urban spaces, sex workers, a densely populated market, and a recurring image of a wrinkled old man in reverie are deeply inflected with a sense of otherworldly significance.

Pin-Fat manipulates his film by over- and underexposing it, which heightens the impact of his work while giving it the implication of the fleeting or momentary. Ultimately, these images seem unanchored from the context of an alienated and alienating Bangkok; they appear mysterious, thus making the city uncanny and temporarily unfamiliar.