Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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An Occasionally Troubled City

Title page of a visual guidebook made earlier this year – now “Occasionally Troubled” looks optimistic

Anyone who’s spent time in Bangkok knows a society which possesses as many graces as this one has massive tensions seething underneath those famous Thai smiles.

Years ago I spent a summer here. One day I was on the bus with a Thai friend. She squeezed my hand and said, “Let’s get out of here,” and pulled me into the street. “There was a man on there with a gun,” she said.

Having come from gun-loving America I wasn’t freaked out like our European companion.

Running errands this week I have seen plenty of guns in certain streets. Big ones. And huge coils of razor wire. Soldiers wearing riot gear. ¬†Children sleeping on the street underneath their parents’ laundry. Stacks of tires and sticks of sharpened bamboo. Smelled the stale cigarettes and urine of hundreds who have nowhere to go in this city, because they are unwanted. Bangkok residents grow frustrated with the stand-off against their cousins from the countryside, and tensions on both sides soar.

Things in Bangkok look set to heat up this weekend. ¬†Again. But with more people and parties and now “multicolored shirts” involved.

But over in my studio at the Artists Place, I’ve got prints to finish for a collector, photo festivals to talk to, a book’s second draft to finish and another series ready to go that’s been in development for an entire year. All I can do is make my work. And listen.

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