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From your Bangkok apartment, you can hear many things: the car wash and the endless lines of taxis to be scrubbed; the scream of a motorbike and the silence that comes after it to what seems like the calm before the inevitable crash. Over this is the voice of Celine Dion and the keyboard accompaniment by the Dutch expat that lives next door; then there is the radio switching between Dutch and Australian news, mixing in with 1960s Thai psychedelia discovered online. Once you have orientated yourself to the sounds, and if the warm breeze is just right, you can hear the chants and the leaders addressing the demonstrators. What is more, you can hear Mor Lam.

หมอลำ, ລຳ, mo lam, maw lam, maw lum, moh lam, mhor lam

Mor Lam is a style of singing that originated in Northern Thailand on the border Laos. It ties together animism, Buddhism, and morality, conjuring visions of the struggle of agrarian life, love lost, and love gained. Rivalry is typical of Mor Lam glawn; in nightlong events, men and women duel to outwit and outlast, an improvised courting ritual of mocking and teasing each other, but over time they begin to simulate falling in love.

Mor Lam is the cross-pollination of nineteenth-century land rights and border conflict of two nations. Used in propaganda during the Laos Civil War (1953-1975), Communist Laotians and the Pro-American Thais infiltrated cultural and social forms to command political support, to galvanize regional pride, and exploit agrarian values. Migration is an important aspect of Mor Lam; its origin line is in the nomadism of Tai tribes that moved through China and Northern Vietnam. Mor lam has been carried a long way from the Thai/Laotian border, finding its way through Thailand in the air, collective memory, and hearts of migrant workers. Nowadays, Mor Lam is a place, rather than just a form of meaning together. It is as if it is created for Karaoke, its tempo, and tone at the pace of reading of a text. Migrant workers new to a city can find their countrymen in the Karaoke bars; it is a home that is far away, yet so close.

หมอลำ, ລຳ, mo lam, maw lam, maw lum, moh lam, mhor lam

The parallel lines that divide ideology still affect the way that we interact with the world today, however, the positions that we take seem not loud enough. There is an irony in this; if we look at the Cold War, the views of ideology were loud and destructive. Still, today with the democratization of the Internet and of weaponry, it is hard to be heard without being assaulted. So for a long time we stayed quiet, likes lines on a karaoke screen waiting to be sung, but now our voices are becoming louder and louder with each shot fired.

Once upon a time, we relied on the printed media to learn about war and unrest, and then later with television, it ate with us at dinner. Documentation of revolutions is everywhere on social media platforms, smartphones, and that dark corner of the Internet, displaying horrific body counts, body parts mixed in with hard-core porn. It's not so difficult to find the unedited raw footage of death, destruction, and chants. This documentation has infiltrated our very existence, and the cultural significance is prominent. In our bordering-on-borderless society, never before was execution so readily and easily available that you can slow down the very moment when a person dies.

Revolutions have beautiful names: Orange, lotus, pink, blue, purple

You are nervous. Here is the locus of the destruction in 2010. There are more than two hundred and fifty thousand red-shirts here, but today you know that they are not preparing for another violent protest, but rather to remember the ninety-one people killed. Moving through the crowd, you stop in front of a poster board plastered with hundreds of photos, and you are shocked: what you know of violence is nothing like this. In these pictures are crumpled bodies and so much blood. Someone tells you to go away; you shouldn't be here; this is not for tourists. You say you didn't come here to have fun; you came here to learn about your new home.

So you move onto a high-rise walkway of the sky train and have a panoramic view of the crowd. From up here, you have a good view of the stage; Mor Lam is sung inter-splicing the political speeches. A tourist asks you if he can take photos, you say that it is a bad idea. Below you can see a man, a politician you think, moving through a mass of people surrounded by bodyguards. People are trying to tell the politician something, but they cannot get close enough. Faraway, so close. Suddenly, the politics of color becomes very real and you'renot sure why you chose to wear a yellow dress today.

หมอลำ, ລຳ, mo lam, maw lam, maw lum, moh lam, mhor lam

Revolutions have beautiful names: Tulip, rose, cedar, green, velvet

What is your belief? If a person is so viciously beaten to death, do you want to know why? They say that knowledge is power, yet by understanding why; do we begin to justify such action? Oppenheimer quoted from The Bhagavad Gita after the first successful detonation of the atomic bomb, “I am death, destroyer of worlds.” To be able to understand complete destruction, you can operate it. In many ancient beliefs, tektites are the talisman of our attainment of souls, perhaps that by understanding the actions of others we take a piece of them with us. This is particularly interesting if we think about the might behind the production of tektites. It is said that the events that produce them are five thousand times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb. The black stone of the Ka'aba is said to be a tektite, becoming darker and darker from the sins of the people. In the most central part of Western Australia, you can find Mount Magnet, which always maintains true north, where apparently an indigenous group transport tektites—Maban or magic—in their beards for its healing power and telepathic contact. Perhaps, the transferal of burden by understanding our neighbor’s actions is the healing that we are seeking? But do we really want to release ourselves from the burden of not knowing in exchange for the burden of knowing?

Revolutions have beautiful names: jasmine, yellow, carnation, red, spring

Added by Eloise Sweetman
Updated a year ago

A month before traveling, I think about where I will be, what will be happening, and what the people around me will be doing. I concentrate on that for a while, rolling it around in my head, all the while knowing that my present self will think back to the past self who is lying in bed thinking about the future self. Eventually, when the imagined turns into the real I say to myself: “one month ago I was thinking about this exact place. Flying.” As often as the ritual is, I still forget to leave a message that can be picked up in the future. In an interview on hope Massumi shows us that the present is uncertain, one does not know at the moment if one should succeed or fail. As such uncertainty can be empowering:

The way all the elements interrelate is so complex that it isn’t necessarily comprehensible in one go. There’s always a sort of vagueness surrounding the situation, an uncertainty about where you might be able to go, and what you might be able to do once you exit that particular context. This uncertainty can actually be empowering – once you realize that it gives you a margin of manoeuvrability and you focus on that, rather than on projecting success or failure. It provides you with the feeling that there is always an opening to experiment, to try and see. [1]

It is the maneuverability of this passage that brings me to think of Kornkrit and photography. His photography, in particular, is in constant movement as he travels through different spaces. I have in mind Ballad of A Thin Man (2016), a series of loose photographs held inside a clamshell box. The photos can be taken out and viewed as a single image or left in the box as one of many. The title comes from a Bob Dylan song, which I have been listening to a lot since Kornkrit sent me the box. When thinking of the maneuverability that is made possible in the present moment of photography, I think of Kornkrit, his travels, his worries, and Dylan’s line keeps coming back to me: ‘But something is happening, and you don't know what it is’.[2]

The etymology of maneuver derives from manuoperare, which means 'work, to work with one's hands; to carry out, prepare'.[3] To work with one's hands bring Kornkrit and the viewer together. His, while handling his camera taking a photograph, come together with the hand of the viewer as they turn over each page. Both hold in their hands the complexity of one frame linking to the past and future. As Massumi says the elements that make up one moment are so complex that they cannot be comprehensible until later. The interrelated elements making up the present is the body in motion, which requires the mobility of other forms to move from place to place. The human body in an airplane requires the movement of airway system, free Wi-Fi, and the wind to remain connected outside of the seat where the body reclines. These forms of mobility are intertwined, and the space created by them are hard to pull apart, just like trying to peel apart the elements of the present. And still, the body is active at rest; the blood circulates, the electrical impulses in the brain and eyes and the thumb track downward on the Facebook page of a friend. The mind is moving backward in time, thinking about the childhood that these friends shared, while the eyes follow the friend’s live video stream. And still, the multiplicity of mobility ‘[…] need to be examined in their fluid interdependence and not in their separation spheres (such as driving, traveling virtually, writing letters, flying and walking.[4] Releasing oneself from the chaos of one moment to focus on a single frame, on a single image, could this be the empowerment that Massumi speaks?

To think about photography as unconfigurable moments is to return to that present moment. Is it to reflect only to understand the image at the time of selection and editing of the photo? I wonder if this is, for a photographer, like standing outside of oneself, looking back in, the complexity of time slowed down and still ever moving. The box, like the act of taking a photograph, loosely holds a moment, a series of moments that are in motion. It seems easy to forget that before, now, and after are not linear, Kornkrit shows us that as the loose pages of Ballad of A Thin Man (2016) over time fall out of chronological order, one moment comes before another in the box, the future enters into the past, through present hands of the viewer and 'something is happening, and you don't know what it is.'[5]

[1] Mary Zournazi & Brian Massumi, ‘Navigating movements – with Brian Massumi’ in Hope: new philosophies for change (Annandale: Pluto Press Australia, 2002), 211-212
[2] Bob Dylan, ‘Ballad of A Thin Man’ in Highway 61 Revisited. (Warner Bros. Inc, 1965; Special Rider Music, 1993). Accessed on December 8, 2016: https://bobdylan.com/songs/ballad-thin-man/
[3] Douglas Harper, ‘maneuver’ in Online Etymology Online (2001-2017). Accessed on December 23, 2017: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=maneuver&allowed_in_frame=0
[4] Mimi Sheller & John Urry, ‘The New Mobilities Paradigm’ in Environment and Planning A, 2006, vol. 38: 207-226. Accessed on 13 November 2014: https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/122109/mod_resource/content/1/The%20new%20mobilities%20paradigm%20Sheller%20-%20Urry.pdf
[5] Bob Dylan, ‘Ballad of A Thin Man’ in Highway 61 Revisited. (Warner Bros. Inc, 1965; Special Rider Music, 1993). Accessed on December 8, 2016: https://bobdylan.com/songs/ballad-thin-man/

Added by Eloise Sweetman
Updated a year ago

Here are some thoughts on intimacy:

  • Intimacy is not one way of being

I have been thinking a lot about intimacy and wondering if it can be made public without being monopolized. Intimacy is useful but is it something more than that which brings us human beings together through a sharing of a multiplicity of knowings?

The temperature of intimacy cannot be measured but somehow I am imagining it to be hot. Similar to the rising temperature of some affects, intimacy can be brought about through tenderness, violence, and anger.

  • Intimacy is not private, it is ‘not knowing’

There is a koan in Zen Buddhism that goes like this: not knowing is most intimate. [1] This not knowing is called ‘great doubt’ and it enables different ways of thinking or perceiving the self and the world. If the condition of not knowing is most intimate I take this to mean that in some ways we are left open and vulnerable. In this sense intimacy is not private but always public as it welcomes all encounters and teachings from a blade of grass to an artwork, or from the bacterial flora in your gut.

  • Intimacy is shared with the organic and the inorganic

Intimacy is sharing a life with other humans, non-humans, and all that lies between, who are at times indifferent to your humanness; who might see you as a warm place, prey, or simply part of the surrounding environment.

  • Intimacy is the door left ajar

I have been wondering if we can think about intimacy along the lines of what Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, says “[…] the self is made up of non-self elements.” [2] Non-self elements make me think about the human body and how the human is made up of a multitude of non-human parts. We are made up of companionship; those that accompany us, and we with them. What if instead we were to put our companions first through a caring of the body’s non-human parts? Intimacy then would become the door ajar to encounters that might be imperceptible, difficult, messy, and not privileging the self.

  • Intimacy is not knowing Intimacy is like memory in the following ways, it is reconfigured and fluctuates, it becomes distorted, or embellished. Yet it is not, as I read recently, something that anyone knows how to do, but regardless of this everyone thinks that they have it right.

Intimacy is the interconnected relationship that emerges, flickers, and disappears over and over again; it opens out by not knowing. Ultimately being in the condition of intimacy is the experience of grappling with the space that is created by the intimate gesture of not knowing.

[1] Marc Lesser, “Not Knowing is Most Intimate.” Marc Lesser (March 1, 2010). Accessed November 14, 2016, http://www.marclesser.net/not-knowing-is-most-intimate/.
[2] Thich Nhat Hanh. “Insight of No-Self”, Last Talk of the Third Week of the Summer Opening Retreat, Plum Village, July 26, 2013, live speech, Youtube, 1:40:17, http://tnhaudio.org/2013/08/05/insight-of-no-self/. Accessed November 14, 2016

Added by Eloise Sweetman
Updated a year ago

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