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<nettime> Chiang Mai - May 2003 - update
Rudolf Stoert on Mon, 26 May 2003 14:10:08 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Chiang Mai - May 2003 - update

Dear friends -

Many thanks for the warm responses I received re my introductory statement
on Chiang Mai & new media art.

As I said before, I arrived in Chiang Mai for the first new media art
festival in Thailand, 28th March-15th April. by now we've relaunched the
accompanying website  {AT} 


ICECA (Initiative for Cultural Exchange & Computer Arts in Thailand) being
the official body which organized the festival.


before giving you some details on the "situation", lemme first grap your
intention w/a couple of impressions from around:

each day I leave the house & enter the street I see it -- doi suthep.

the day I arrived, riding into the city, we came by doi suthep, a mountain
slope -- then in mists, it was time of dusk but there was no sun to see,
just some eery yellowish light. the mountain veiled. doi suthep looms over
the city like, as one has put it, a "doting mother", a guarding entity. in
every religion I know of, "mountains" play some important role & there's a
famous, obviously fascinating wat/temple ruling doi suthep too -- Wat Phra
That Doi Suthep. at nights you can see its golden lights up there in the
blackness of the mountain. you can't see neither sun nor stars nor the
moon. sure, there must have been clouds somewhere above -- but beneath
these was just this dome of mists.

somedays skies cleared & you could see the actual clouds hanging around
the summit of doi suthep. heavy dark clouds thick with water, their
fractal tongues licking down the flanks. on a couple of days it was
incredibly hot (ok? _incredibly_ HOT!) -- one time I was in the city &
rain poured down for some minutes; you could smell the damp concrete, for
a short time you could smell the vegetation but the generally effect was
being smashed over the head with brute force. the concrete & stones &
streets of the city had absorbed that much heat that adding some
rain/water simply transformed the air into some hot & massive entity; like
walking through extremely hot marmalade. looking up to doi suthep _then_
you could see the moisture rising from the trees, another watery veil
shrouding the mountain.

so the general impression to give you -- skies aren't clear. either
there's this kind of mist, there are heavy clouds or whatever -- sometimes
the smokes of some local trash fires add to flavor. one day i could make
out the street snakewinding its way up the mountain to the temple simply
'cause there was some fire & the smokes more or less kept to the road, up
& down.

that was on another very hot day, skies full of yellowish-brownish haze,
air full of smell of smoke. as I said I can see doi suthep perfectly when
I leave the house & walk into that small street of ours -- & there was
this gang of street-dogs (EVERYWHERE!) fukkin one bitch in the midst of
the street, not caring for traffic or anything, right in my line of view
to the mountain. it was so hot that even doggish horniness came to its end
-- dogs were simply standing around, flanks trembling, bodies shaking,
tongues like carpets of flesh hanging this way or the other & now & then
one of them _tried_ to ride the bitch but it obviously was way to
exhausting & so it stopped & finally the bitch simply dropped to the
street, "4-2-the-floor", surrounded by its mates which don't even tried to
be horny no more & cars going by & yes, there still was doi suthep,
unimpressed ;) -- come on, fellows, you're intelligent... -- I don't have
to explicitly _play_ the words, a bitch being "hot" & the climate being
even hotter than animals heat & that mountain...-- listen to those
subcellular rumours from the times when there hadn't been
phaeno-/genotype, mountains raising their heads with sheer phallic energy
to become seats for the gods & your brilliant human mind was just some
dance of atoms, _attracted_ to each other, _falling_ in love, dancing on
Gravitys Rainbow, in the light of the stars... -- que?

see? -- it still _is_ hot.

anyhow ... -- just introduction for yrs truly riding the mountain with a

one word re traffic: for a westerner traffic in the streets seems to be
pure chaos -- at first glance. compared to overregulated Germany where you
find street-signs & lamps every 100meter -- this is pure wilderness. also,
people simply don't care. you're supposed to drive left, on the left lane
-- but better for your health to expect pedestrians, bicycles, motor-bikes
& even SUV's or pick-ups coming into your direction; at night, without any
lights ;) also you're supposed to stop at "red" & go with "green" -- well,
to be honest, this _is_ a good "idea", generally; on the other hand... --
so what?

nonetheless -- when you're _part_ of the traffic, things take on quite a
different character. it's _not_ "street-war" as in Germany where
frustrated car-/tank-owners fight it out with superior horse-power. it's
not high-speed adrenaline madness as in Italy. it's not as suicidal as i
recall driving through Yugoslavia. -- it's smooth. traffic rolls in
midtempo. you've to take care -- strange things might happen every second
but generally: it works out.

without regulations.

also...; to my delight..., _this_ ain't neither an "alcohol" nor any other
"stimulants/addictions"-_culture_ -- sure as hell there are drunks &
freaked out youngsters on that crap from the borders which goes as "xtc",
being most cases simply some real "unhealthy" "speed" -- i forgot the Thai
expression, something w/ "madness" ;) -- which is to say: _if_ you join
traffic, strange things might happen -- but generally you don't have to
expect some "normals" (beware of these! anywhere in the world!), totally
out of their heads, without any control of that murderous device they call

well... then... how comes traffic accidents rate no.1 in reasons for
death? don't know... -- wait a sec...

to go to doi suthep you simply go past the immensely large university
campus & immediately you start climbing. a minute you're in jam-packed
lanes having fun w/ cars as on a bike you can go past, accelerate, switch
lanes -- & the next minute you're in the jungle. you start w/ a large
curve to the right where there's some huge golden Buddha-statues & the
whole street in the fumes of burning incense -- & then you go up.

motorcycling is fun, real fun. I always loved it. & as everyone can tell
you one of the biggest funs is to climb a jungle-mountain at nightfall,
one unlit curve after the other, tight ones, wide ones, steep ones. don't
know what to expect behind the next. air becoming fresher & cooler w/ each
kilometer you climb. smell of that thick green biomass around you.

hmm... -- good to have started at nightfall, as other cars & motorbikes
switch on their lights. bad they sometimes have any. sure you can't hear
anything & then out of a sudden there they are, in a suicidal
down-mountain race, flying towards you out of that curve, no headlights,
but directly in front of you, your lane (when riding a bike at high speed
you more or less _have to_ drive on the opposite lane to keep an ideal
line for taking/making a curve...) -- might be _that_ adds to some of the
death-toll in the streets.

I crossed neon-lit waterfalls, Buddha-statues glowing darkly golden in the
midst of the jungle, a couple of smaller wats. I went past Wat Phra That
Doi Suthep (closed) & past that royal winter palace even higher up -- &
then there was no way to go no more. it was dark night by then, nothing to
see; just green, darker green, lighter green, immensely tight interknotted
green, large green, small green -- "jungle", you name it.

but there was sound, incredible loud sound, the whole mountain cried in
metallic voice. insects. not only that familiar noise of sweet summer
nights -- an occasional cricket chirping here & there. no -- imagine
armies of crickets! hear some massive aggressively sounding rattling
noise, from a metallic low to high-pitch, riding like waves through the
jungle. a wailing as of circular saws cutting steel. incredibly loud
clacks as if one weirdo would play metal castagnets w/out any feel for
rhythm. if you move closer to the trees you become aware "'em" becoming
aware of you -- sounds rise in hostile tone. got the association of
immense electrical power-lines, not 'cause of the regular humming, more
for the alienness of the sounds. (which reminds me of a record my good old
drug-doc once taped for me: some guy compiled sounds of insects from all
over the world into audio-pieces; sounded like high-end industrial

I missed a place in CM for to be by myself, alone, at night -- now I found
one! [found a couple of others too, w/ that bike; a smooth lake in no-mans
land between university & mountain; a beautiful park in the southeast of
"walled city"; an abandoned high-rise ;)]

ok, climbing a mountain with a motorbike is real fun -- getting down again
is work, real work, especially at night. so I took every possibility for a
break. there are a couple of sight-seeing points -- & this is more or less
what this whole story about riding doi suthep is all about:

so there are places to park & look down at Chiang Mai. imagine it's dark,
not black but also not lit by some stars or some industrial light-waste.
you're in the jungle. & down there you see the city. you can make out the
old inner city, neatly squared, 1,5kmx1,5km, surrounded by "moats"/canals,
some military defence architecture from the "old times". now tourist
attraction no. 1. there's a quite simple traffic layout re the "city" --
two one-way-routes circling the square, in opposite directions, separated
by the moats. from doi suthep you could see the nightlife lights, moving,
reddish, yellowish, blueish, greenish.

you could make out the couple of "high-rises" (lightened) & the more
couple of stalled ones, dark concrete blocks topping the lights below. on
the mountain-flanks you could see the villas & summer-residencies of the
wealthy ones, lights broken-mirrored in some ponds & pools. nearer to the
city-limits there was the ring of dark reddish lights of fires & some
flickering of dark yellow, low-power lightbulbs -- the ring of the poor;
it's not "slums"; well ok, huts being made of bricks & woods & corrugated
iron & you got the occasional plastic too... -- nonetheless it's not
"slums", it's a ring of poor. [see "juniradio", later]

& sure you could make out the main traffic lanes, cutting through Chiang
Mai in fullpowered electrical stimulation. then drifting away -- into
other directions, into the night.

ok, got the impression, quite a sight, yep.

_BUT_ -- when I left this place & looked back I saw a picture of
overwhelming beauty. by then it was black night, that dark you had
difficulties to see anything. I looked back at the clearing & there was
this pagoda-like, open wooden structure. there's a fence to hold on while
enjoying the sights. & there were a young thai couple & another young
male. you could only make out their shadows, tight black, _framed_ by
skeleton-shadows of the pagoda; surrounded by jungle; against the
night-skies being lit dimly from below, Chiang Mai. there weren't that
much insect noises, being halfway down the mountain, then. it's night, hot
night but fresh air on the mountains, it's calm... & more or less you had
these incredibly beautiful shadows, close to each other, moving softly &
heard that Thai language, some love-chat, words coming like some small
waterfall. -- sigh :)

[take a sec, read again, use your imagination...]

when I finally got down, there was this amazing abrupt change again -- you
come down out of the dark & cool & a minute later you're in tight traffic,
surrounded by the lights & fumes & smells of the street-kitchens & stalls,
one next to another. up there I'd to use my leather-jacket; in the city it
was another hot night. "hot" by any standards ;)

& that's for doi suthep.


& now for some boring bigger picture:

as is said last time, "it became obvious pretty soon that this festival
was just a timely coincidence for me to arrive in a country..., well...,
on the brinks 'to become a knowledge society until 2010'." how comes?

in May 2002 the first drafts were brought into Thailands parliament on
behalf of the National Information Technology Committee (NITC) to create a
new ministry for ICT (Information Communication Technology) as part of a
general bureaucratic reorganization. sure, couple of problems arose -- not
only for other ministries/departments fearing for loss of influence but
also for the planned integration of two main Thai telecomm-_enterprises_,
Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT), the still mayor
telecomm-provider & the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) under
the ICT-ministry. & there's the National Electronics and Computer
Technology Centre (Nectec), supposedly responsible for development of R&D
but kneedeep in day-to-day hassle.

Nonetheless, quarrels aside, on 11th September 2002 Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra approved a five-year ICT-master plan (2002-2006). the same day
Deputy Minister Korn said, "to develop the economy quickly we need a clear
strategy so that Thailand can be ready for competition."

this is a _big_ picture so lemme cut it in big chunks: this ICT-masterplan
aims at 7 areas for development: ICT industry development, ICT
utilization, ICT R&D, competitiveness, overseas market development, ICT
for SMEs (Sall & Middle seized Enterprises) & ICT for the public sector.
to achieve the overall goal to "make Thailand a 'knowledge'-society" by
2010, 3 main strategies shall be implemented -- human resource investment,
innovation promotion & nationwide infrastructure coverage. & there are 5
"main electronic initiatives" -- e-government, e-commerce, e-industry,
e-education & e-society.

organizational questions still unsolved the ICT-ministry was launched in
October 2002 -- & since then they're pushing things pretty fast.

there are three people w/out whom things wouldn't be _that_ developing.

1) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. himself w/ some entrepreneurial
background, he's trying for something nearly impossible, to literally
"transform" a country w/ hundreds-years old values & traditions into
modernity. [I'll come back to this later]

2) Wuttipong Pongsuwan, who was the Prime Minister's information
technology adviser & now works w/ the ICT-ministry as -- my impression:
developer & firefighter.

3) Suraphong Suebwonglee, the Minister of ICT.

i'll name these 3 more often -- so, simply keep 'em in mind.

as Thailand's economy is in recession -- more or less -- since 1997 one
can perceive this ICT-masterplan as just another state-funded project to
boost the economy. that definitely is true & as sure as hell there'll be
problems arising as w/ all good intentioned state-funded market-boosters.
but there's more to it ...

to give you an impression of the obstacles mr. Thaksin Shinawatra & his
crew are fighting here's some impressions of mine after visiting some
governmental & corporate institutions & some chats w/ people (quoted from
a letter again):

pls take w/ a grain of salt ;)

---quote.on: while talking about this I'd might add some of my own
experiences. well, ok, we all know it's hell to deal w/ institutions &
bureaucracies. we all know it's best practice to go for the head-honcho &
nail him to get things done. over here this is not only sop (standard
operations procedure) -- it's the only reality & truth. I tried to get
appointments w/ a couple of institutions (governmental & corporate) -- & I
didn't even aimed at the head in every case; due to the fact that I was
after specific information one midlevel-specialists would be better to
chat w/. -- no way. no f%$# {AT}  way. the top-level-guy has to decide which
route of action will be executed by his institution. &, as you can
imagine, NOW -- these folks are busy busy busy deciding which route of
action has to be executed in this & that question. a f$%^& mess! a

& there's no way to fasten things up. you have to meet that top-honcho to
get some personal relationship, true as everywhere else, sure. but, say,
if you just stop by to say, "hi, here I am. what about a minute?" -- you
freak people out!

to give you an illustration -- let's say you go to some western
bureaucracy (not a latin country one; Italy, Spain, France; keep it simple
-- western). you'll find heavily specialized & departmentalized
task-oriented workflow-cells & uncanny chains-of-command. it's a nightmare
but in the end you'll find someone who's _in charge_.

not so over here: this isn't run task-oriented but individual-centered.

you bump into an office & wonder how comes all these people are constantly
bowing to each other. you're inside a hyperactive anthill & every second
someone is bowing to someone else, not once, but every time they run into
each other. which they do pretty often a day, even in an hour, if they
share office rooms. not only people are in hurry from here to there on a
_horizontal_ level; there's also constant movement on a _vertical_ level;
heads & shoulders going down & up again. &..., pls keep in mind, this
ain't no "role-playing" shit but an elaborate system re _who_ has to bow
_first_, down to which height, you've to put your hands together in front
of your face, but re this there are exact rules too, aso. -- social
hierarchy expressed bodily, in full motion.

look... -- I'm not making fun of this. just a description; every
culture/country has its own rules to deal w/ world & keep systems
operational. I'm a guest.

it's that social hierarchy thingy -- you've to show respect to the one
superior to you. you not only "show" it -- it's real. the one superior to
you has the _right_ to be superior (not for education, wealth,
capabilities, beauty -- what you got; no, it's his f#$%&* "birth-right":
if he's superior, there's some reason for him being superior. & everything
is fine.). which means "superiors" are in "charge"; so _you_ can't decide
nothing, _you_ just keep telling _me_ "he's not in his office right now"
;). &... there's always another guy above even your superior...

if things doesn't work out the one in charge is hit by the shit from the
fan. & this is absolute anathema! by no way "superior" may loose his face!
so you can't expect quick decision making or execution here.

there are other things to this too; it's some kind of "good paternalism"
-- the "superior" is superior; fine, ok, that's some reincarnation
reasoning, you simply don't want to f#$%* over w/ reincarnation, right?
but, as he's "superior" & "in-charge", he's also "responsible" -- I'm not
talking this western shit of "resonsibiliy" where some stupid dudes are in
a position to execute some power, being "responsible", but simply aren't
even capable of the implications of "responsibility". head-honcho here
knows his "responsibility" -- he takes care for you, really, he _has_ to
-- it's his _duty_ being "superior". not that American occasional smile,
that shoulder-grapping, "hey buddy, had a great weekend?" -- & next day
you're fired, "this ain't personal! ok?!" no..., we're talking real
personal responsibility.

so... understand? all this is "social glue" -- not tasks, or economics.
it's not "new economy": "we're one family & it's fun to work 18h/day & all
these interesting people -- & hey... -- what's this? how comes boss left
w/ all the money?" -- we're talking real close social ties, up & down the
hierarchy & it's the "social glue" that counts & matters. first. & last.

it's _not_ Arab or Latin-/Amercian nepotism. yes, there's "corruption" --
but not necessarily being 'cause of nepotism or for "instrumental
reasons". first rule is the well-being of the "social entity" -- family,
company, institution. &: DON'T LOOSE FACE!

so you got a mixture of old traditional values & ways to execute plans --
& "modern" "frames" (for behaviour), be these legal or organizational or
what you got. & these two "sets" are of totally different importance for
people -- therefore implicate some contradictions sometimes ;)

well, just my little reasoning being here for 6 weeks ;) ---:quote.off

that's the situation more or less.

i'll give it another try:

here's a thousands-years old culture rooted in Buddhism. a proud culture,
having managed to escape being colonialized -- "Siam: land of the free". a
very long & elaborate developed & deep rooted socio-culture of "top-down".

otoh -- there'd been careful steps into modernism (as _we_
farang/westerners conceive it; afaik -- the verdict is still out if
_that's_ a real-good-one perception). my impression is, to put it simply
w/ my clumsy English, "modernism" hasn't arrived yet at neither the heart
of the people nor at the heart of society.

& so... the let's call 'em "modern" "frames/structures" (governmental,
corporate, economic, educational) are _actually_ still run w/ pre-modern
but for thousands of years useful personal&social-mindsets.

understand now what I meant w/ "obstacles" Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra & his
team are up against?

understand now why I spoke of "challenging times over here"? -- I'm here
to setup a non-profit media-art-center, yeah the mix of natural/social
sciences, technology & art. but it's a lot more challenging over here not
only for a total different deep rooted culture, language, social code --
but also to, hopefully, experience new media generating "art" in
contemporary socio-cultural reflexion of a society on the brink.


next time I'll have a bit more flesh&blood&bones to it -- as you've a
general outline by now I'll be more specific on the effects of ICT on
Chiang Mai; a review of the first new media festival & its impact -- on
art in Thailand -- & sure, gossip from that "flower of the north", Chiang

gimme just another sec telling you what we're up to at the moment:

1) Francis Wittenberger, founder of ICECA & organizer of the first
festival, gives a weekly lecture on SFX at the Chiang Mai Uninversity Art
Museum. the first one was just yesterday -- pretty well done w/ a short
introduction to main sfx&animations terms & techniques followed by a
screening of "pluto nash" (Eddy Murphy, yes ...); every now & then being
interrupted to explain a certain effect & to reproduce it w/ SoftImage.
very well done! (there's something in Thai youth which totally fixes 'em
on videos, games, illustrations & sfx... a _lot_ different to the more
word-/technique-centered approaches I know from the west. got some
thoughts re this too -- later...)

2) yrs truly, Rudolf "Rudy" Stoert, untitled yet, is busy preparing a
cooperation w/ juniradio:


juniradio is part of a larger, global, ongoing project called ERSATZSTADT
(http://www.ersatzmedia.info) -- stems from a couple of architects, heavy
sociological tone.

I always was more into the socio-cultural & communications aspects of
"art"; I therefore like the opportunity for Chiang Mai to participate a

it'll be some audio-streaming-to-radio-broadcasting re "city", "control of
public space", etc -- I like the topic quite a lot! & there's wealth of
material available -- been to stalled high-rises, people actually living
there, not squatters! -- they claim they got contracts for these
apartments which aren't finished, might never be, 'cause investor ran out
of money & so they live in a construction zone.

been to the ring of the poor. had a nice chat re "drugs" (for symptoms of
a city). there are the guys from faculty of architecture to talk with.
soundbites from the insects at doi suthep & nightmarket. heavy theoretical
thinking re ole Baudrillards "revolt of the signs", aka, "graffiti" --
there are none over here. the chaos of traffic. "public space" & private
life in public -- lots of houses/flats have neither a refrigerator nor a
kitchen to speak of -- people meet & eat & socialize in public. _but_! --
no "showing off" "private emotions" in public; no anger, no kissing, no
hugging, aso -- DON'T LOOSE FACE!

the medium of "audio" & its capability to construct "space" as opposed to
visual media. aso.

I said, I like it ;) -- no; no more details! check out the website ;)
generate traffic! spread the word!

I'll post another msg w/ more details.


thanks again for your warm remarks; keep 'em coming ;)

& start to consider your participation in Second New Media Art Festival in
Chiang Mai, spring 2004.

very best Rudy

r_stoert {AT} inter.net
v: ++66.(0)7.1810367
f: ++49.(0)30.2639173.02246

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