Sutee protest reaches Korea
A group of artists and academics sent an open letter to Gwangju Museum of Art (GMA) in South Korea to protest against the participation of an “anti-democratic’’ Thai artist in an exhibition to promote human rights and the free spirit.
The letter is signed by 118 people who call themselves the Cultural Activists for Democracy (CAD) group. It expressed concern over the inclusion of Thai artist Sutee Kunavichayanont in the exhibition entitled “The Truth—to Turn It Over.”
The exhibition is part of an event entitled “2016 Asia’s Democracy, Human Rights and Peace.’’
The show, which opened on May 10 and runs until Aug 15, commemorates the 36th anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising against the South Korean military regime in May 1980.
The cultural activists group questioned if the inclusion of Sutee’s works, one of which features scenes from protests organised by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which helped pave the way for the military takeover in May 22, 2014, would be in the spirit of the Gwangju Uprising.
It said Sutee is clearly aligned with the PDRC which blocked streets and government buildings. The protest group led by former Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban also boycotted the 2014 election and barred people from voting.
During the PDRC’s Shut Down Bangkok campaign, Sutee and his artist friends organised an Art Lane event that raised funds for the PDRC movement, the letter said.
Rather than promoting democracy and civilian rule, his project led to a decline in democracy, it said.
The group said it questioned the GMA board and curator Lim Jong-young for selecting Sutee’s works to be part of the exhibition.
It said while it believes freedom of expression is important to artists, it’s concerned that Sutee’s works emerged from events that go against the spirit of the Gwangju Uprising.
Online news outlet Another Word is Possible (AWP) quoted the curator as saying he was impressed by Sutee’s street art as it contains a similarity with the people’s art of South Korea during the 1980s.
Mr Lim said he considered the art without considering the political implications.
“I didn’t expect this kind of reaction from Thailand. We have received complaints from various individuals...’’ Mr Lim said.
“We will discuss the matter. We may consider taking down one of Sutee’s four artworks — the one relevant to the PDRC protest. But we need consent from the artist. We wouldn’t do it unilaterally because this is our mistake,’’ he added.