Asia

Nontawat Numbenchapol
Mr. Shadow 2

The series of prints titled Mr. Shadow by Nontawat Numbenchapol engages with the history of and current state of militarization in Thailand. Each print features an invisible person, their silhouette only outlined by the military fatigues that they wear. The faceless figure in each work is pictured either in solitude or interacting with other camouflage-swathed ghosts. Ironically, the camouflage attire of each figure is the only part of them that is not erased by the artist. Photographed on a mountain range at the border between Shan State in Myanmar and Northern Thailand, the Mr. Shadow series epitomizes the haunting presence and effects of a militarized modernity and nation-state building across the region.

An outlier in the photo series, this image features a solitary figure in civilian clothes. He leans casually against a motorcycle, seemingly in a state of waiting, his military cap hangs from a beam above his head ominously. The image is reminiscent of a fashion catalogue  advertisement for cologne or high-end clothing brand. The pastoral scene also emphasizes the landscape—a geography contested and dominated by violence, dispossession, displacement, and migration. Though the compositions and imagery may differ across the images, what ties this series together is a temporal tension; there is a discernible sense of latent expectancy or apprehension that permeates the figures in waiting.

Nontawat Numbenchapol is primarily known as a film director and television screenwriter, widely recognized for his documentary work. His moving image work is considered part of Thailand’s film wave exploring politics and the social sphere through poetics and cinematography. His work often unpacks societal and historical complexities in the porous geographies of inland Southeast Asia. Through an experimental documentary aesthetic, Numbenchapol's work captures the stories of local people, refugees and immigrants, people marginalized by neo-colonial capitalism, and portrays them as living archives. He has made films and photographic installations concerning the contested Thai-Cambodia border and the holy archaeological site at its epicentre. Numbenchapol's Mobile Lab Project researches experimental ways of visual and sound perception in humans.