Friday, October 31, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
SE Asia Big Man..............
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The Hidden Hand.....
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Disintegrating in the Phnom Penh Night.........
Monday, October 13, 2014
From Chris Coles Talk at Thammasat University: Some Thoughts on Thailand's Sex Industry
I am often asked, especially by Thais, why my paintings are so focused on
Thailand's commercial sex industry and 's
commercial sex workers. Thailand
After all, every country on earth has some type and scale of commercial sex industry.
So here are some of my thoughts on
commercial sex industry, based on years of observation, thousands of conversations
and making my 2,000 or so paintings. Thailand
I think what separates out the Thailand commercial sex industry from many other countries in the world is not merely it's quite large scale (which is clearly not nearly as large as the world's largest-scale commercial sex industries which are probably, in terms of sheer numbers, in India or perhaps China) but also the amount of thought, creativity, marketing, capital investment and organization that go into it.
Unlike in some other countries where the commercial sex industry is a bit "Mom and Pop" or "improvised" or merely "functional", in
, it's not
only Big Business, it's "Show Business"... Thailand
Not only a multi-billion dollar a year business, but a very well-organized and well-run multi-billion dollar a year business with huge profit margins and a huge foreign currency/balance-of-trade impact, much of which goes to some of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Thailand who have a very deep stake in the future prosperity and expansion of this particular industry.
The Commercial Sex Industry in
Thailand is also a
significant component of 's
overall economy (esp. in terms of "hard currency" or
"export-of-services" earnings), somewhere between 5% and 15%
depending how who's doing the analysis and how much of the
"spin-off"/"indirect" economic activity related to the
Commercial Sex Industry is accounted for. Thailand
As with any large-scale industry, in order to maintain itself and prosper, there must be a constant supply of new labor, probably about 5% of the overall labor force each year to replace those who retire or, for various reasons, drop out.
Estimates of the direct labor involved range from 500,000 to as much as 2 million Thai females working full or part-time, generally speaking between the ages of 20 and 40.
Which means each year between 25,000 to 100,000 new or replacement Commercial Sex Workers are required to keep this large and important economic sector going.
Clearly, successfully maintaining such a large volume of new recruits each and every year is not simply a factor or "individual morality" or "individual human frailty" so much as a result of a certain type of social structure and social circumstances.
Among these circumstances, the following seem to me to be key drivers in channeling so many young Thai females into seeking employment in
's thriving Commercial sex
1. Low and poor quality education levels which reduce potential opportunities and choice for remunerative or hi-valued added employment.
2. Low wage levels for non-skilled and low-education workers along with huge disparities between so-called "normal" employment and "successful" (in the economic sense) Commercial Sex Work. IE, an average low-skilled job in
pay a low-education worker 10,000 baht or less a month while a
"successful" Commercial Sex Worker with the same education level
might earn ten times (or even more) per month. Not a small incremental
difference but a really large difference. Thailand
has one of the world's
highest rates of teenage pregnancy. Abortion is technically illegal as well as
culturally frowned on within Thailand 's
Buddhist/Karma way of thinking. And once a young Thai female (often unmarried)
has a baby, she acquires a large multi-year financial responsibility. Thailand
4. There is almost no effective Alimony or Child Support system in
which means the financial
consequences of teenage pregnancy and birth fall almost solely to the young
mother and almost none to the father. Thailand, especially in rural Thailand,
5. In the absence of a meaningful government pension system in rural
, many retired parents too
old or sick to work are partially or
solely dependent on their daughters to provide them with some form of pension
or living expenses. After a lifetime of work, in which they may never have
earned more than a few thousand dollars per year (or even less), the parents
will seldom have managed to accumulate meaningful savings. Without their
daughter(s) sending them money every month, they could not live. Thailand
On an optimistic note, I think some countries in the world have managed to successfully re-structure their societies with various political, education, social and economic policies to alter the above circumstances and have seen radical reductions in the numbers of their own citizens who are channeled into their Commercial Sex Industries.
Generally speaking, while this does not necessarily reduce the size and scale of a country's overall Commercial Sex Industry (as in Japan for instance where there is a very large Commercial Sex Industry staffed to a large degree by tens of thousands [maybe even hundreds of thousands] female sex workers imported from other, lower income/lower education level countries than Japan such as Thailand and the Philippines), I think it is beneficial to a country's own female citizens (and to the country as a whole) to have more economic, educational and social opportunities for its female citizens and fewer overwhelming financial demands and almost impossible responsibilities that make choosing to be a commercial sex worker the best option among only bad choices.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Chris Coles Talk at Thammasat University on Some of Bangkok & Southeast Asia Noir's Source Material
While there's a lesser or greater degree of noir everywhere in the world, I think each country and area has their own version of noir, with their own characteristics, cast of characters, colors, music and ambiance.
In the case of Southeast Asia and
noir, in my view at least, some of the characteristics often used, and
sometimes mis-used, as "Raw Material" for Noir creation, are the
An atmosphere of fatalism, acceptance and passivity in the face of adverse circumstances, no matter how unjust, unfair and unpleasant those circumstance might be.
Resignation in the face of unavoidable Karmic burdens acquired in past lives and deeds, burdens from which there is no escape.
A world where endemic corruption is not only considered to be "normal" and "permanent" but in some cases, "essential".
Double helpings of impunity, disenfranchisement and rule by Big Men.
An absence of meaningful Rule of Law.
Almost no guaranteed rights for the general population, whether unassailable property rights, equality under the Law, the right to equal opportunity and social mobility, or what are sometimes referred to as "Civil Rights" or "Constitutional Rights".
Individuals portrayed in much of Southeast Asia and
noir are often arbitrarily subject to state and Big Man violence, selective and
biased law enforcement, in extreme instances, even assassination and
In many of the noir stories, songs, films and art, Southeast Asia and
are sometimes, but not always, portrayed as worlds in which some of the
inhabitants accept their own powerlessness or impotence in the face of
arbitrary, unrestrained authority. Bangkok
Accept that they have little or no recourse in the face of widespread injustice.
Accept that large and endemic commercial sex industries as well as rampant illegal drug industries are deeply and permanently embedded in the structure of their societies and that these socially corrosive industries often operate with the complicity and are sometimes even under the control of state authorities as well as the various Big Men.
Accept that, in certain geographic areas and locations, there are organized child or underage sex businesses, accompanied by inevitable corrosive impacts and consequences.
Accept that, even in year 2014, there still exists indentured servitude and even outright slave labor, an ongoing trafficking/indentured-related movement of men, women, and children across international borders.
Accept that there is large-scale trade in illegal and counterfeit goods and weapons, drugs and narcotics.
Accept that there are and always will be huge disparities in incomes, living standards, asset ownership, etc. etc.
For the various writers, musicians, filmmakers and artists working in
and Southeast Asia who are inspired by or
looking for noir subjects and themes, there seems to be an abundance of noir
material with which to work.
Playing a central role in all this surplus of noir is, of course, the widespread and sometimes industrial scale nightlife/commercial sex industry that exists in
and throughout Southeast Asia.
And while almost every country and every part of our world has at least some nightlife/commercial sex industry, what is unusual in Southeast Asia and
is not only the sheer scale but also
the high level of creativity and resources brought to bear. Bangkok
The use of multiple, overlapping music tracks.
An astute, often very creative use of casting, costumes, lighting, neon, signage and dynamic colors.
The seemingly endless supply of delicious and aromatic cuisine that accompanies and is present in many
SE Asia nightlife venues.
An often warm and inviting ambiance that is an integral part of how the nightlife is delivered and consumed.
And of course, the Southeast Asia and
nightlife's most essential core ingredient, without which it could no longer
exist, the hundreds of thousands of young and attractive females, males and
ladyboys, many with a surprisingly high level of intelligence, wit, style and
There's definitely a kind of power that radiates out from the
Bangkok and Southeast Asia nightlife and a magnetic noir that is
unique, unusual and often compelling.
Something that, year after year, draws in millions of people, workers and consumers, from every walk of life, every part of the world, every level of life.
Most of my own paintings are drawn from this richness and noir power.
The girls, boys, ladyboys. The customers, staff and infrastructure.
The music, lighting, neon and signage.
The ambiance, the stories, the lies.
The beauty, poignancy, tragedy. The hundreds of thousands of lost opportunities.
The alienation, dis-connection and objectification.
I often wander through the Bangkok Noir looking for inspiration.
I find it to be a rich source of ideas, characters, costumes, situations, colors, stories and lighting.
I hope I've managed to capture and convey at least some of it's myriad levels of beauty, ugliness, horror, sadness and joy.
The virtues, deficits and defects of some of the people who inhabit it.
And some of the dreams, nightmares and dilemmas of mankind's existence on our post-modern and globalized version of Planet Earth.