Prabda Yoon: Transmissions of Unwanted Pasts
Thailand’s first Earth observation satellite, nicknamed THEOS, was developed and manufactured by Astrium SAS in France, under a contract with the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology. The satellite was eventually launched into orbit from a Russian site in 2008. The project cost at least 180 million dollars. Its service lasted until 2015. GISTDA, the Thai space agency in charge of the project, claimed many benefits for Thailand from having such a satellite, but the details given were generally vague and it was never possible for the public to know whether their statements were valid.
In 2017, GISTDA announced their plan to develop a second satellite, THEOS II, and despite heated skepticism and controversy over the transparency of this 240 million dollar project, the Thai military government signed a contract with the French company Airbus Defence & Space to manufacture the satellite in June of 2018. GISTDA said THEOS II would be used for “water management, disaster management, national security, monitoring pollution and natural hazards, as well as urban and economic development.” GISTDA also argued that by having its own satellite, Thailand would no longer have to buy satellite information from other countries. Instead, the images taken by THEOS II would make money for Thailand when foreign organizations acquire them. Again, the public cannot be sure whether any of this is credible.
The experimental short film, “Transmissions of Unwanted Pasts”, presents a curious scenario that takes place at the control center for THEOS II in Si Racha, a town in Chonburi, a province on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. One day, after the scientists have been puzzled by a string of curious images captured by THEOS II, one researcher discovers that the satellite has been taking photographs of the past, not a specific past but the past from many different time periods, jumping from one to another with no logical order. Some of the images seem to show a period as far back as the 1600s, during the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, confirming important historical events, such as the 1688 revolution, when Siamese nationalists attacked French fortresses in Bangkok, and several images that seem to show political demonstrations and crackdowns of the 1970s, 1990s, up to the recent events in April and May of 2010, among other, more mundane captures.
The discovery causes great excitement among the scientists and the researchers, but as soon as the the military officials find out about it, they quickly move to claim the information in order to destroy it. Fearing that the researcher would try to leak the discovery to the media, they also try to “erase” her.
“Transmissions of Unwanted Pasts” is an allegory proposing that the current political conflicts in Thailand have been largely caused by the ruling class’ efforts to fabricate, invent, and eliminate historical facts, and to suppress or destroy certain informations that could potentially have pushed Thai society toward a sustainable democracy had they been available for the public.
“Transmissions of Unwanted Pasts” is a 15 minute experimental film. It is designed to be shown either as a regular film on any applicable device or as an installation in an appropriate space.
PRABDA YOON | Biography
Writer and filmmaker Prabda Yoon was born in 1973 in Bangkok. In 2000, he published two collections of short stories, Muang Moom Chak (City of Right Angles), and Kwam Na Ja Pen (Probability), which won the prestigious S.E.A. Write Award in 2002 and made Yoon a household name in Bangkok. Yoon has been widely credited as the popularizer of “postmodern” writing in Thailand.
Since his debut collections, Yoon has written and published numerous story collections, novels, essays, song lyrics, and screenplays. His writings have been translated to Japanese, English, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese. Yoon is also the Thai translator of western modern classics such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and all of J.D. Salinger’s books.
In early 2017, the UK independent publishing house Tilted Axis Press released Yoon’s first book in English, entitled The Sad Part Was. It is the first translation of Thai fiction to be published in the UK. His second English book, Moving Parts, published in 2018, is also by Tilted Axis Press.
Apart from writing, Yoon is a notable designer and film director. He has directed two feature films, “Motel Mist” (2016) and “Someone from Nowhere” (2017), both critically acclaimed at international film festivals.
KEMBARA: n. Malay; to adventure; to journey; to wander
Adventures in the Artistic Landscape of Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a vast region of rich and complex cultures produced by centuries of migration. Home to nearly ten percent of the world’s population, the countries of Southeast Asia represent all of the world’s major religions, often evolved in ways specific to the region. Here, hybrid identities are the norm, as hundreds of different ethnic and linguistic groups intermingle and their histories overlap.
To capture the spirit of this fascinating and complex region, the Columbia Institute of Ideas and Imagination is proud to present KEMBARA, a series of events that brings together artists and thinkers from across Southeast Asia—people at the forefront of artistic, cultural and political change—and matches them with counterparts from France and beyond in combinations that will challenge and delight audiences.