Graffiti can be found (to at least some extent) in pretty much every major city around the world, and Bangkok is no exception.
However, I was surprised recently when I passed by a vacant lot in Bangkok near the Ratchathewi BTS station and saw not only graffiti but some murals painted there as well.
Some were relatively small.
But it was interesting to see that the “canvases” that these works were painted on were like palimpsests in that it was clear that others had “contributed” to these works of art either before or after the main painting was created, suggesting a kind of artistic “conversation.”
These following two murals were particularly impressive:
As I walked down the alley next to this vacant lot I noticed that there were more paintings in side alleys.
I particularly like how the following picture came out, with the actual cat in the doorway looking at me taking a photograph of the painted cat.
These side streets were in what was clearly a “working class” neighborhood. This made me interested to find out who created these paintings, and what the local residents thought of them.
While we think of big skyscrapers as markers of “progress” or “development,” these paintings point to ways that the people who can’t afford to live in such high-rise buildings nonetheless change the spaces they live in with the times.
There is clearly an influence from “external” cultural sources in these works, such as Japanese manga. Yet, as the painting above from Siam Square – in the heart of the shopping area of Bangkok – indicates, there is also an element of local critique in some of these works, as this image seems to playfully mock the chaotic placement of wires along streets in the city.
These images therefore are perfect material for examining the convergence of the global and the local (or what is sometimes referred to as the “glocal”).
In seeing these images, all kinds of ideas came to my mind for ways to study this phenomenon in an historical context. Many “spacial” studies have been produced concerning the history of cities, that is, studies that note when new buildings and roads were built, etc. and the spaces in the city were altered.
However, fewer studies have been made of how people have made “places” out of those spaces, that is, of how they have given their own meanings to the spaces where they live and work.
Examining this street art in Bangkok would be a great way to begin such a study. Looking back in time at how people made Bangkok spaces into their own places would then make such a study even more fascinating.