No History refers to the human history that is recorded through verbal storytelling and other forms of myth-making that mutate over time. Ghosts, for example, occupy No History zones. The thing about Ghost stories is that they are often the product of localized subjectivities, united by geographical, regional or internet niches, coming together to create a story that is passed on over time. Often, ghosts and spirits are tools for resisting oppressive power from empires or dominant tribes of people. A local ghost in the forest areas of Southeast Asia made American soldiers sick if they dared to enter the forest or failed to pay respect.
A cave in Northern Thailand has a few of these ghost stories. The most famous one – about a princess, “who lay down in agony, waiting for her lover, and became the goddess of the cave”. This is the cave where the kids were trapped. The cave sits in a border area, home to a large population of stateless people and ethnic minorities – three of the kids fled Burma as refugees. This border is also a confluence of forces at the heart of the region’s history: this border was defined after WW2, during the rise of King Rama 9, as Thailand became the U.S. military Cold War base in Southeast Asia; during the spread of state-sanctioned Buddhism, used to direct power towards the political center in Bangkok. This history is mostly unrecorded – there is a law against talking about the Royal history of Thailand. Within the invisibility and opaqueness grows a certain power – a mythical time when things can exist in-between and new stories can be written.
This year, the cave was home to many forces. The state, which is now a military-run government, became the protagonist of the story, shaping the narrative to support an election planned for February 2019 – the first since the coup. Spirit mediums, monks, and ghosts of Thailand were there, shoulder-to- shoulder with the American military, international capitalist Elon Musk and his staff, the state scientists.
The plight of the kids became a moment to reframe Thailand and present it to the world, but also back to itself, creating new stories with roles for the helpless and the benevolent, the caregiver and the care- receiver. In the act of letting something take care of you, you also lose a part of yourself and become that something else. In the cave story, the military performs care for the people, for the children, and for the inhabitants of this marginal borderland.
The late King Rama 9, who was the symbolic father of the country. The Ghosts, who laid down the princess. The Naga, caring for the locals who worship them. Dr. Susan Brown, caring for rabbits and other abandoned animals. The rabbit, domesticated by humans to exist in a nature that is created through the stories that humans created for ourselves – what does it mean to return these animals to nature?
Care itself becomes a symbolic act, or a story that refuses to die.
This work tries to draw relationships between these people and events through the metaphor of touch. Touching a green light, the light transforms into a story in a dark, opaque place. The green light becomes the green light of the movie screen or the green screen in a movie production. The movie itself as an event in which light is abstracted into story. The audience of the cinema becomes “possessed” through the movie-watching experience, living and feeling through stories that are not theirs. These stories continue to breathe and live within the bodies of the audience.
Copyright the artist Courtesy of Carlos/Ishikawa, London