Like many know, freelance animator Saratta Cheungsatiansup, 29, has been going through a rough patch as Thailand comes apart at the seams. But then he has turned his volatile emotions into fuel to create snappy, surreal artwork that serves as a visual diary of our current health, political and economic crises.
As Uninspired by Current Events, he is making a mark with of-the-moment works satirizing Thailand’s worst days of the pandemic, from a lab rat being injected with random vaccines to panda-masked riot police opening fire. One of his impactful works was just posted earlier this week depicting a shrouded corpse lying in a street and surrounded by orange traffic cones and abandoned flags – a timely parallel to the ghastly sight this week of dead bodies in Bangkok’s streets.
We talked to Saratta about his art, his “un”inspiration and why, despite what you may think, it isn’t all about politics.
In your opinion, what was the most “uninspiring” event Thailand has endured over the past year?
It’s hard to tell. With this authoritarian regime, anything can be uninspiring. I would say it’s the system that is the most uninspiring.
Do you think you can make an impact through your work?
I don’t make my illustrations with expectations on creating an impact. If my work can at least contribute to meaningful conversation for everyone, I would like to be a part of that.
With most of your work requiring interpretation, is it safe to say this is your way to avoid lawsuits?
I think it’s just an extra benefit. The reasons I created this Facebook page aren’t solely political. If that was the case, then I would include parliament figures in my art.
I really want to make my work look stunning. Even if it highlights the political issue of the day, the topic represented in the picture should be relevant no matter how much time has passed. It should represent something bigger than just the event itself. People who don’t follow Thai politics should be able to get the message. I want my pictures to be aesthetically pleasing more than just scolding criticism.
Compared to other political pages in Thailand, yours seems to be off the radar of pro-establishment types. Why is that?
I’ve only got one comment [from a pro-regime figure] since I opened the page. This might be because I don’t make explicit statements in my work. People might get the secret messages when they share my work. They might develop completely different interpretations of my artwork than what I have for it. But those who live in different worlds might not understand what I’m trying to express. It’s like an encryption that can only be unlocked by those who follow the same things.
Tell us about your creative process.
Mostly the news comes to me. Every time I wake up, I just check the topics that people on Facebook are angry about, and you’ll see that there’s no end to this news at all. I never intended to make my page all about politics, though. It can be anything. I just want to find unique ways to narrate current events.
For example, if you want to depict bribery, you might come up with an image of people handing things beneath a table. So I’ve tried to come up with different images, like the Trojan horse, to represent a sense of smuggling or trickery.
You briefly deactivated your account after feeling overwhelmed by political news. By making art based on current events, doesn’t that make it worse?
The results are rather opposite. Far from making me feel more depressed, doing this is more like therapy to me. I used to feel overwhelmed by the news, and I couldn’t find a way to handle all my pent-up emotions. Turning them into art not only gives meaning to the work — it also helps me let go of those negative feelings. It’s a process of healing.
Why did you start your page?
Before I started this page, I only published my artwork in my personal account on Facebook. After doing this for about a week, one of my friends suggested that I should start a page to expand my audience. I came up with this name because I wanted to play on the double meaning of the page. First is the literal meaning to show how uninspiring the current events are. Second is to serve as a disclaimer that my page has nothing to do with the current events. We never address any issues specifically, and people can interpret the artwork however they deem fit.
Does the message ever fail to get across to your audience?
Of course, some of the messages I intended to relay to the audience might not be clear. This happens when I’m too ambitious and try to include a bunch of ideas in one picture. When you have more than one key message in your artwork, the audience will find it hard to grasp its meaning.
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