On October 21, 25 Bangkok Art Biennale including Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor, released a public statement expressing the support for the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand and calling for dialogue, not a crackdown.
A protester in front of the crowd control police line. (Source: File photo)
As participating artists of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2020, we are deeply concerned about the events that have unravelled in Bangkok over the past days in response to the ongoing protests calling for democratic change. Scenes of overt police force, including the use of water cannons, being deployed against peaceful protesters have weighed heavily upon us as we prepare for the full opening of the biennale later this month. The arrests of key protest leaders and several activists are also a cause for concern. That many of these events have taken place in the Pathumwan intersection where the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), a key venue of the Biennale, is located makes this response all the more urgent and necessary.
The theme of this year’s Biennale is “Escape Routes,” which according to the Biennale, explores how art can help us understand and search for ways out of the many predicaments that we are living through in the world today. We believe that any attempt at imagining the possible futures that lie ahead of us must begin by confronting our present realities. This means that as artists we must not only maintain art as a space for reflection and debate on the issues of the day but also be able to speak directly to the situations that have literally arrived at our doorstep.
We therefore unequivocally condemn and call for the immediate stop to the use of violence against the protesters and express our support for their struggle for democracy. We also affirm the space of art as an essential constituent of the democratic public sphere which, in times of social upheaval, must also seek to provide refuge for those escaping violence. We further urge the Biennale and the BACC to join us in taking a stand against such violence and affirming the right to peaceful protest.
As artists, we thrive in a society that supports our ability to speak out and speak to the times in which we live. Such a society is one that meets calls for progressive change not with a crackdown but a commitment to building understanding, dialogue and collectivity.
October 21, 2020
Choy Ka Fai
Dinh Q. Le
Ho Rui An
Reena Saini Kallat
(As of October 21, 2020)