#penthai / #เป็นไท 2015 – 2016

Pen Thai is an interactive, installation exhibition. In this piece Tinnakorn has ventured into the realm of relational aesthetics to create a photo-booth project. The project depends on the ubiquity of digital image-making in everyday life and its role in social media as the newest iteration of public space. The photo-booth consists of a backdrop of a blue sky watermarked with the Thai flag, a digital photo-printer, and a display canvas.

During the opening people can take their photos before the backdrop, then uploaded and tagged their images with #เป็นไท or #penthai. The photos are then printed out in real time in the gallery and installed on the canvas marked out in the form of the Thai flag.

Tinnakorn explains that the two hashtag #เป็นไท or #penthai express memory, identity, and freedom. The #เป็นไท hashtag depends on the ambiguity of Thai national identity (spelled ไทย), Tai ethnicity (spelled ไท), these words can both also mean “free.” Thailand, then, could be translated as “land of the free. A selfie taken in front of a barely visible Thai flag tagged with #เป็นไท has implications that point to the imagined (and imaged) nature of Thai identity, and the suppression of free speech perpetrated by the current military regime that rules the country.

The photo-booth piece embraces the democratized state of image-making that digital media has created and how this relatively new freedom allows people to constantly construct their political, ethnic, sexual, and social selves, even while living under draconian regimes. Most importantly, this photo-booth project is fun. People young and old pose for photos and enjoy uploading them and printing them out. As the night burns on, the blank display canvas begins to fill with images of all types of people.

Anthony Lovenheim Irwin
PhD Candidate, Fulbright Scholar, Languages and Cultures of Asia University of Wisconsin-Madison.