Warning: Declaration of CycloneSlider_ExportPage::render_page($post) should be compatible with CycloneSlider_WpAdminSubPage::render_page() in /homepages/32/d362250558/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/cyclone-slider-2/src/CycloneSlider/ExportPage.php on line 54

Warning: Declaration of CycloneSlider_ImportPage::render_page($post) should be compatible with CycloneSlider_WpAdminSubPage::render_page() in /homepages/32/d362250558/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/cyclone-slider-2/src/CycloneSlider/ImportPage.php on line 54
Riso Duro | 2007 « Nigel Bennet | Artist

Riso Duro | 2007

Riso Duro is a series of video works that track sites within Thailand where the Pentagon or CIA funded, instigated, orchestrated, supported, planned or indeed themselves directly carried-out military and paramilitary operations. These actions were directed against either Thai citizens opposed to Thailand’s rightwing cold-war era regimes; against the citizens of neighboring Laos, during the CIA’s secret and illegal war on that nation in the 60s and 70s; or, more recently, against citizens of various nations suspected of violent extremism flown into Thailand for interrogation as part of the “War on Terror”.

“Underneath the victorious new world lies the historically buried cadavers of those who had to be murdered in order that a clean and orderly monument of public imagery could be constructed. The erection of this orderly image realm is nothing less than necromancy, death magic, power culled from the corpse.” – Alan Klima

Every event – as it occurs, as it comes together for one fleeting instant – simultaneously shatters on impact into a thousand shards. Half a jigsaw, no box. Thus we are never really presented with a whole but are left to assemble some kind of “truth” from the pieces. Yet, while many smaller details may be obscured, the image that emerges once the fog has cleared frequently tells a similar story – with the usual actors playing familiar roles.

Most people know Thailand as an idyllic destination for tropical beach vacations. What holidaymakers maybe less aware of is the nation’s long history of political and military involvement with the United States. The only nation in Southeast Asia never colonized by a European power, Thailand was less successful in evading the influence of the US: the tactics of careful diplomacy and appeasement that were so successful in warding off Britain and France were not sufficient to save Thailand from becoming one of the Pentagon’s numerous post-war puppet states.

During the Cold War, the US saw Thailand as perfectly placed to become an important ideological and geographical buffer in their campaign against the growing ‘tide’ of Asian Communism. Consequently, from the early 1960s onwards, the Pentagon began pumping a truly astonishing amount of military aid into Thailand: strengthening the position of a string of dictatorships that would rule the country for the best part of the next half a century. Indeed, the more the military regime oppressed the population and rejected democracy, the more the US applauded and upped the flow of arms. US control of Thailand was so strong during this period that journalist Jonathan Kwitny states that the CIA used to “practically run” the government.

At the peak of the Vietnam War, when the majority of US B52 bombing runs over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were flown out of bases in NE Thailand, the Pentagon referred to the country as its own personal, landlocked aircraft carrier. Then, in the 1970s, amidst growing public opposition to the US presence, the CIA funded right-wing paramilitary groups such as Krathingdaeng and Nawapon who beat and murdered student protesters.

For much of the 1990s Thailand was under civilian rule, however it appears that the Thai military’s intimate relationship with the Pentagon was not left to fizzle out: since the US invasion of Iraq, there have been reports that U-Tapao, the US’s airbase during the Vietnam war, has been revived as a site of interrogation in the CIA’s ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ program. Additional CIA black sites have since been identified elsewhere in the country.

Riso Duro revisits the sites of violent and traumatic events. To a certain extent, then, the project was originally intended as an addition to the growing corpus of photographic works claiming to magically capture on film the traces of historical wraiths. However, while producing the videos, it became apparent to me just how over-ambitious such a goal actually is (and, consequently, how unsatisfying the results of such a venture ultimately prove to be). And although I do hope Riso Duro can serve as a reminder of US-backed atrocities, it was not primarily created for this purpose. Nor is it meant solely as a reflection on collective amnesia – although quite clearly it attests to this too. Rather, by the end, the work came to have as its main subject precisely the difficulty of bringing into focus and illuminating political crimes – especially those that have been deliberately hidden behind a deep smokescreen of subterfuge, lies and denial. Not only by the culprits and their backers, but by a compliant media. And even ourselves.

Consequently, if the videos that make up Riso Duro document anything, it is the difficulty I encountered in researching, locating and accessing both physical sites and information about those sites; and the feeling of impotence and futility I experienced even when I apparently did reach my goal.

 

 

 

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/136622266″ width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/136622266″>Riso-Duro | Shrapnel</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/nigelbennet”>Nigel Bennet</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p><iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/136622266″ width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/136622266″>Riso-Duro | Shrapnel</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/nigelbennet”>Nigel Bennet</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p><iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/136622266″ width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/136622266″>Riso-Duro | Shrapnel</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/nigelbennet”>Nigel Bennet</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Riso-Duro | Shrapnel

Riso-Duro | American Stories

Riso-Duro | Physical Evidence

Riso-Duro | One Unlucky Guy

Riso-Duro: Boonyarak 601

Riso-Duro | Counting Traffic