My Grandpa’s Route Has Been Forever Blocked

My Grandpa’s Route Has Been Forever Blocked, 2012
video, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 15.49 mins

The Ping River is a historical route for teakwood export, 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 was chief manager for the timber transport that moved teakwood from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. His life was mysterious to us, since it took him more than 3 months to complete his job. It was dangerous work as he had to handle elephants and heavy logs, keep an eye out for bandits and navigate between crags and cliffs. I followed my grandfather’s route, but only upstream from the Bhumibol Dam in the Tak, Lamphun and Chiang Mai provinces. The riverscape of his time and mine are completely different having changed after the Bhumibol Dam was built in 1958, the river was blocked and the expansion of the road network was developed further… Journeys along the Ping River as well as a boat trip helped me to understand what my grandfather experienced in the past; at the same time I could observe other issues that have arisen in my time. This work leads me to interest in an impact of electricity generation.

In the right video channel is a documentary about the cruise on the lake above Bhumibol Dam where the reservoir made the Ping River become a huge lake. As a result, villages as well as a large stretch of teak forest were submerged. The left video shows 13 small weirs, including floodgates and dikes lying sequentially from the first weir near the source of the river to the Bhumibol Dam.

“Set upon the water, Sutthirat Supaparinya’s twin-channel video espouses cinematic and poetic qualities in equal measure as she traces the Siamese-European trade route that her grandfather’s generation once forged, changing Thailand forever.”

Dan Rule, March 23, 2013, The Age Newspaper