Friday, November 5, 2010

Spirits Exhibit - Spooky, Scary!

Surprisingly, Bangkok is pretty big on Halloween.  Haunted houses, parties and even an annual zombie walk.  It's all pretty awesome.  To get into the swing of things I went to see the "Spirits" exhibit at the Thailand Creative and Design Center.

This is not as ambitiously cultured on my part as it may sound - the TCDC is at the top of the Emporium Shopping Mall.  I did, in fact, go to try and find the exhibit.  And find it, I did - but not after a few random 'I'm in a fun mood - why not?'  purchases, including but not limited to a pair of suspenders that I will never wear. 

Moving on.

To enter the exhibit, a nonchalant security guard waves you towards a black wall - which then slides open and you, impressed with such a fine start, stride in with full confidence.  I was not prepared for when the door slides shut behind you and all is dark.  Extremely dark.

Feeling my way along the wall, I rounded the corner and entered the next room.  Bare, cement walls with a lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling.  This was beginning to feel like a twisted version of a Law & Order episode wherein I had the potential to be both victim and/or interrogating officer (suspenders).  I'm not sure if this was the intent.  There was no explanation for this room whatsoever and after I walked through, I found myself in the midst of a delightful exhibition.

It was incredibly well thought out, with signs in both English and Thai and was quite thought-provoking.  Not only did the curators touch on different spirit traditions in Thailand but they also spoke about the economy of death and fear as well.  It was pretty awesome.

The picture quality makes this hard to read but this sign talks about how many people visit fortune tellers in Bangkok every year and the total revenue this generates. 

I was a Religion Studies major* in college and I find all of this really fascinating.

That is, until you accidently bump into this:

Not cool, Spirits Exhibit.

There were lots of different examples of Thai spirits and ghosts, including the head of a female ghost that was rigged up so that it moved slowly in a wide circle.  It was very dark in there and unfortunately I didn't even notice this one until it came around and hit me in the arm.  

There is a very interesting male spirit that I believe is called phi kra hung and basically this guy flies around at night, has a tail and what appear to be giant bamboo baskets for hands.  

On the write-up it says that men who live in the world as these spirits are very good at hiding it.  This is because they never let anyone touch their behind, presumably, to find the tail.  As a rule, I generally don't go around touching men's behinds.  I do, however, tend to notice when men have baskets for hands.  

The exhibit was impressive and culturally relevant.  Which is why I was a little concerned to see this guy trying to weasel his way into Thai culture via a cardboard cut-out.  

I enjoyed seeing Thai horror comics through the ages.

But not as much as I enjoyed seeing this.

"Something wicked this way comes!" - says this guy, unconvincingly.


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