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น้ำมันแพง | The Cost Of Petrol | 2004 « Nigel Bennet | Artist

น้ำมันแพง | The Cost Of Petrol | 2004

Set in the IMF-dominated period following the Asian financial crash of 1997, The Cost Of Petrol follows the life of a Bangkok taxi driver who yearns to return to a ‘simpler’ life in his hometown in the North of Thailand. Dealing with issues and interests which had slowly grown in me over several years following my graduation from a degree in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of London, this is an extremely personal body of work in which I experimented with an extended form of visual narrative closer to film making or comic books, incorporating Thai idioms and folk sayings and referencing stories and themes commonly found in Northeastern Thailand’s popular Luk Tung and Mor Lam music, of which I have been a fan and collector for many years.

As a subtext, the work examines Thai ideas of beauty and self-worth, as reflected in both advertising and popular culture such as fashion magazines, soap-operas and karaoke videos. In this narrative, Western, Korean or Japanese imports are often assigned much greater value than indigenous forms. A practice which, intentional or not, further serves to undermine the self-esteem and confidence of the Thai working class. The work is also a critique of the conspicuous materialism and inequality found in much of East and Southeast Asia – perhaps nowhere more so than in status-obsessed Thailand where the long suppressed economic and social divisions between Bangkok’s minority elite and the rural and urban poor have since erupted in extreme violence verging on civil war.