Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya
Headache Stencil wants to annoy the government
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Read the following story by Suwitcha Chaiyong from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.
Criticising the government is part of a normal democracy, but perhaps not in Thailand. One artist, however, refuses to stay quiet.
DO OR DIE
In 2018, after the street artist Headache Stencil — who keeps his true identity anonymous — painted graffiti of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon’s face on an alarm clock, he was harassed by plainclothes policemen visiting his home at night. Since then, Headache Stencil received much more public attention and caught the authorities’ eye. His other famous works include the silenced black panther and memes of Wanchalerm Satsaksit, who was a Thai political exile abducted outside his home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Such harassment, however, didn’t stop the artist from creating more political art with his latest exhibition titled “Do Or Die”, now on view at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT).
“Before I created this exhibition, I thought about what topics have been prohibited to talk about since I was a kid. Everything that is prohibited will be presented here. After, I’ll go into hiding for my own safety. I have only one life,” said Headache Stencil.
In addition to his own paintings, Headache Stencil also collaborated with three street artists — Alex Face, Muebon and Mamablues — for this exhibition. Alex Face is recognised for his three-eyed childlike figure in a rabbit suit while Muebon is famous for his graffiti of a skull with mouse ears.
“Alex Face, Muebon and I shared an art studio together, but after I was harassed by police officers, I moved out. We discussed concepts before working on paintings. Mamablues is a rising street artist. Working with her was most difficult because I thought her painting was already complete when it arrived. It took me a long time to add a toy soldier in the frame. Collaboration is difficult and takes time,” he said.
The name Headache Stencil was created in 2014 when the artist participated in the world’s largest competition for stencil art at “Stencil Art Prize” in Australia. His artwork Chicken Soldier entered the final round and he flew to Australia to experience the international street artist lifestyle there.
“I took art seriously after that because I found their lifestyle interesting. I use the name Headache Stencil because I intend to give a headache to people who are the subject of my artwork. And stencil is the technique that I can do best. I created Chicken Soldier, which is a picture of a soldier with a chicken on his head, to depict that the government dared to launch a coup, but they are chicken [scared] of accepting criticism,” the artist explained.
Headache Stencil grew up with a father who is a university lecturer for mass communication, so he was taught to read various newspapers. He noticed that the same stories were reported differently in different media. After reading so much, he became hooked on political news.
“I see politicians come and go, but the system is still trash. It’s like a popular soap opera in which only the actors are replaced, but the other elements are still the same,” said Headache Stencil.
Due to his interest in political issues, as a street artist, he believes every artist has the right to creative freedom.
“Every artist has the right to refer to anything that they want through their artwork without any limits. Nobody wants to worsen the society we live in. Art doesn’t destroy things. Street art educates and encourages Thai people to walk into an art gallery. This should be supported rather than discouraged,” he said.
As a person who is interested in politics, Headache Stencil supports the recent student protests, but he thinks they will take time to work.
“We’ll see true democracy, probably when the students participating in these protests become grandparents. However, I’ll be dead by then,” he said.
“Do Or Die” runs at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand until Sept 18. Visit facebook.com/headachestencil for more information.
Section 1: Write the correct answer in the space provided.
1. Whose face did Headache Stencil paint on a clock? …………….
2. What is the title of his new exhibition? …………….
3. How many artists did he work with for the show? …………….
4. His work won a competition in 2014. True or false? …………….
5. What does his father do? …………..
6. What does Headache Stencil compare politics to? …………….
7. He thinks that art can educate people. True or false? …………….
8. He believes the country will eventually see true democracy. True or false? …………….
Section 2: Write the noun form of the following words in the space provided.
9. refuses ……… 10. famous ……… 11. discussed ………. 12. popular ………. 13. encourages ……….
Section 3: Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.
“The student protests are …14…, but they don’t affect the authorities or the government. The authorities don’t feel …15…. If they feel that, they would have …16… a long time ago. I think the protest should focus on …17… who support the government or authorities. If they lose their …18…, they will not want to continue to support the government,” Headache Stencil …19… .
14. A. creation —B. creative —C. creates
15. A. shake up —B. shook up —C. shaken up
16. A. resign —B. resignation — C. resigned
17. A. investors — B. investments —C. invests
18. A. benefit — B. benefits —C. beneficial
19. A. replied —B. suggested — C. countered
Section 4: Find words that match the following definitions.
20. (of a person) not identified by name ……………
21. behaviour that is threatening or annoying ……………
22. a piece of card with a design cut out of it ……………
23. a sudden and violent seizure of power …………
24. garbage; useless or low-class people ……………
Answers: 1. Prawit Wongsuwon. 2. Do Or Die. 3. Three. 4. false. 5. university lecturer. 6. a soap opera. 7. true. 8. true. 9. refusal. 10. fame. 11. discussion. 12. popularity. 13. encouragement.
14. b. 15. c. 16. c. 17. a. 18. b. 19. b.
20. anonymous. 21. harassment. 22. stencil. 23. coup. 24. trash.
SCORE 21-24: Excellent! 17-20: Good. 13-16: Fair. 12 or fewer: You’ll do better next time!