My Grandpa’s Route Has Been Forever Blocked

Edition 3/4+2AP

Supaparinya Sutthirat

2-channel video and single-channel video, 2012, HD video, colour, sound, 15.49 mins, Edition 3/4 + 2AP
All images courtesy of the artist

In this documentary, Supaparinya Sutthirat takes us on a journey down the Ping River, a waterway that has historically been used for trade. It reflects upon the evolving river-scape comparing the river of now to that of the one that existed during her Grandfather’s time. In 1958, the Bhumibol Dam was built, effectively changing the landscape. Sutthirat takes the viewer on a journey down the present Ping River in an attempt to understand the past and observe issues in the present. Using an innovative split-screen technique, the video invites viewers to reflect on small weirs, floodgates, and dikes lying sequentially from the source of the river to the Bhumibol Dam while taking the viewer on a boat cruise to contextualize the impact of changes on the river.

Artist’s Statement

The Ping River is a historic route for teakwood exports (Siamese-European trade) and also an important part of my family’s history. My grandparents lived along the Ping River. It was their hometown, their work and their life. My maternal grandfather once was a cargo boat trader on this route. His life was mysterious to us, since he often traveled away from home. I have followed my grandfather’s route, until only upstream from the Bhumibol Dam in the Tak, until Lamphun and Chiang Mai provinces. However, since the Bhumibol Dam was built in 1958 as well as the expansion of the road network, the Ping river was blocked. Hence, the river-scape in his time and mine are completely different. The journey along, and on, the Ping River helped me to understand what my grandfather had experienced; at the same time I could observe other issues that have arisen in my time – such as the impact of electricity generation on rural communities.

In My Grandpa’s Route has been forever blocked, the screen on the left invites viewers to reflect on small weirs, floodgates, and dikes lying sequentially from the source of the river to the Bhumibol Dam. While the screen on the right documents a local cruise operator on the subsequent reservoir of Ping River (Bhumibol Dam) – the creation of this huge lake saw a vast stretch of teak forest submerged under water forever.

In 2011, an enormous amount of water was released from the dam (compounded by the urgency of tropical storms), which resulted in devastating floods in central Thailand, and Bangkok. This human mismanagement was an unforgettable water disaster in Thailand.

Editor: Aura Contemporary Art Foundation