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“Unspeakable Things” (สิ่งที่แตะต้องไม่ได้) is a series of ten pieces which explore Thai politics and its histories through everyday objects—both Thai and foreign analysts are limited in what we can say directly, so we turn to objects for the same reason as so many Thai dissidents have lately done. We began this project as the one-year anniversary of the April-May 2010 violent crackdown by Thai state forces on red shirt protestors passed, and are publishing as the second anniversary of the crackdown dawns with accountability still elusive. This series is also launched at a time when the number of people convicted of violations of Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act continues to grow unchecked.
Our project, in the spirit of Thai-language progressive online news (like ประชาไท/Prachatai) and journal and publishing houses (like ฟ้าเดียวกัน/Fa Diew Kan and อ่าน/Aan), aims to fill a critical void created by state repression. But because we are communicating with an English-speaking audience that may or may not be familiar with Thailand’s most pressing issues, we also hope that presenting things—lottery tickets, songs, blueprints, breasts, handwritten letters – will convey something about the humanity of these difficulties that conventional news reports typically do not, thus opening fresh channels of sympathy and critical engagement. In the bitter contests over the stakes of objects, there is humor, love, and aspiration amidst abundant injustice. Conveying such emotional complexity is crucial to connecting human beings across barriers of language and circumstance, and in turn to imagining a more just society. That is our goal.
Each piece in this series combines different media forms to create a layered, interactive collage of words, images, video, and sound. The ten pieces will be released in several groups over the coming weeks. We invite you to spend time viewing, listening, and reading, and in so doing reflect on the Thai present and the resonances and effects of what can be spoken and what utterances remain forbidden. The introduction takes the form of a recorded, and redacted, conversation between Ben Tausig and Tyrell Haberkorn, the two co-editors of the series, on the forms, nature, and possibilities of working against unspeakability. We redacted our own conversation as both a sober recognition of our keen awareness of the limits of what can be spoken—and what speech is made forbidden Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act—as well as to punctuate the reason for this project.
[Unspeakable Things Special Collection]