Benz Thanachart: An artist with a flair of Surreal:
Benz was born 1987 in Bangkok, raised between Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani province. A province in the east of Thailand, straight on the Laos border. Because his parents ran a business in Ubon, he mostly lived with his aunt in Bangkok. From his young school years and the whole way up to university. They thought he would get a better education in the city than up-country.
He received a Bachelor’s degree from Thammasat University in cinematography and photography. After his studies he was looking for work and found an advertisement “searching for an assistant to film director”, he wrote a letter and got the job!
The director was no less than one of the most prominent in Thailand: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Working with an outstanding director like Apichatpong made him gain much valuable experience, while working on the film “Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives” made him take off with great speed, to explore his own creativity and move forward searching his own path. Apichatpong highly recommended him to travel to the USA and to continue his studies in cinematography, to deepen his knowledge and to get a Master’s degree, which he received 2 years later from the SVA “School of Visual Art” in New York.
When I saw Benz work, “The Real Alaska” a photo exhibition, from his journey of 2 weeks of beautiful landscape pictures and very “banal and absurd” texts like:
Will that girl contact me on Facebook?, or I hate when the cinema theatre is empty and one guy comes in and sits straight in front of me or I like when people step out of the BTS skytrain in Bangkok, to leave place for people to get off, despite being “robbed” of your own place in the train or my favourite one, the party got cancelled, what a relief!
………and it goes on like this.
I got drawn to his simple way of taking pictures, (with a compact, pocket camera from Sony) which I didn’t know then, but he showed me today! His pictures are very much focused on the open space, well Alaska is not the most populated part of the world, so not many people to photograph, but when I saw his pictures from New York, there was that exact same feeling of simplicity and empty spaces with very, very little people in the pictures……. He doesn’t constantly snap shots, he waits for the right moment which may take…. 20 minutes…… and you can see that. He is calm, meditative and not rushed. He is curious, he travel extensively and vastly in the world.
The publisher “SalmonBooks” in Thailand published his first book, “New York 1st time” in 2014, which is Benz’s, we could say, diary about living in New York and the second one came very quickly after, the same year “The Real Alaska”. Benz realised while working on the “Alaskan trip” he would even like to live in Alaska for some time, people are absolutely wonderful, the strong sence of community is very nurturing, people are plainly, nice and helpful.
A few days ago, I stumbled over some pretty fun short films or video clips, by Benz, a work he did with an American “Professor of Philosophy named Nelson”, from New York and who travelled to Bangkok for the first time and lived there for about one year. A great documentary about sub-culture in Thailand. It was quirky and fun. So the other day when I met Benz I named them and told him I really liked that work, he then told me to my surprise that everything was scripted, so Nelson is not a professor of philosophy, but a former teacher from the Parsons New School for design in New York, Nelson never lived in Thailand, he only came to shoot the video clips with Benz during 2 weeks.
it was interesting to “use the concept of documentary for a film entirely scripted”
Nelson has now retired and at the age of 78, taken up another profession: dancer…….. he is quite a personality.
The new book “Once Ubon A Time” is about making fun of hipster culture in Thailand. It is also my attempt to picture a modernized rural area in Northeastern Thailand, where my mother was born.
Benz was last weekend at the 43rd National Book Fair and 13th Bangkok International Book Fair 2015, he was signing his latest book for readers most of the time, he’s planing to go there again this weekend.
(Book lovers will be delighted to find a myriad of premium quality local and international books at the 43rd National Book Fair and 13th Bangkok International Book Fair 2015, hosted by the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT). 27 March – 6 April 2015, the exhibition opens at 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. At the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center)
Benz is a young up-coming artist with an enormous potential and I think we will see much more from him in the future………Vagabonding around the world (he will be this summer in my home country Sweden, so I’m really looking forward to hear what he thinks about us and how he will see and interpret us). For now Benz spends some time in Thailand, but Benz lives in Bronx.