Bangkok Wires by Photographer Thomas Kalak

Photographer Thomas Kalak specializes in photographing odd and unusual things. When he went to Bangkok, Thailand, he was taken by how (literally) wired the city is. Here's his gallery of "Bangkok Wires" at Polar Inertia Journal:

Bangkok, totally wired. Cable clutter everywhere. Like electric monsters they hang over the junction. Sometimes like art-installations close to the sidewalk. Easy to reach out and touch for kids.

But this special picture is as vanishing as the shown technology at the beginning of the new millennium. It will disapear soon.

As so many things in Bangkok, wires are another symbol for this chaotic city. It seems to be unsystematic and dysfunctional. But as the traffic, always close to the collapse, it works, somehow.

In everyday Bangkok, western ideas of order and system have no place at all. What happens here is instead very much dominated by ordinary people and a philosophy of relaxed co-existence which permits seemingly irreconcilable contradictions. Everywhere, one finds a good-natured willingness to take life as it is, with all of its tensions and scurrilous variety, and enjoy it as well!


More on Thomas Kalak: Official Website | Weird Bangkok Objects at Things Magazine | The curious art of found technology at Kevin Kelly's Street Use blog (don't miss the home-made brake lights!)

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Hallo SYMPA,
i understand your attitude but in this case i think it´s a little more comprehensive and not a sad case.also i have no depressions. if you are interested in other stuff about bangkok, search for my new book "thailand - same same but different. in the meanwhile i send you this context about my idea of the "crazy wiring".

thomas kalak

Thomas takes a photographic view of supposedly meaningless details in the urban context that only become valuable as the subject of an image by the fact that they are constantly in the urban panorama. His latest series kabel in bangkok is dedicated to the electricity and telecommunications cables omnipresent in Bangkok that seems to carry on their own lives above the heads of passers-by – unplanned, uncontrolled and just plain chaotic.

As in his earlier work, Kalak tackles an aspect of everyday culture here that tells us a lot about life in the city. Kalak’s documentary view finds expression in an unfalsified snapshot aesthetics that puts what one sees in the centre of attention and gives his pictures a stunning effect. In the age of digitalisation with its virtually unlimited possibilities for manipulating images, Kalak seems to consciously return to a “realistic tendency” (Siegfried Kracauer) with his unpretentious visual language that identifies the photograph in its aesthetic language as a faithful reproduction of reality. He shows everyday phenomena without artistic hyperbole and the simplest of tools whose narrative potential only develops fully when taken together and therefore when presented as photographic series.

The cables spread like a sore into the furthermost corners of Bangkok and grow into even the smallest kitchen to let them partake of the blessing of state-of-the-art power supply and telecommunications. And, while in some pictures the cable draw lonely circles on the sky, elsewhere they brutally break out into the sphere of humanity as agglomerations in the ground, thus presenting a real threat. It is especially these images that show a shocking view of a foreign world to the eye of the Western observer and where Kalak bears witness to his bewilderment in the face of the overwhelming presence of these masses of cable. Filthy, massive, ugly and unrelenting – this is how these cables penetrate into the visual field of passers-by everywhere in the city, whoosh over poster walls, occupy houses and lock the sky shut.

You can hardly recall their functions and you find it difficult to believe that this chaos might be disentangled or even given a structure. Kalak’s photographs offer a terrifying, but also fascinating image of a system that seems to have emerged independent without any consideration of the living space of people while obliviously guiding the flows of energy that keep the city alive. This supposed loss of control of uncontrollable technology gives us an idea of the threatening force that people may have felt when they saw the first locomotives, steam machines or conveyor belts.

But some of these cable structures have a bundled material weight combined with the apparent weightlessness of the insulated lines. That gives them an abstract expressive value with their various densities and dynamic loosening that reminds one of installations in the artistic context. This is the reason why Kalak’s documentary images also constitute symbols of the burgeoning global networking in the age of globalisation and the unbridled growth of exploding mega-cities. The structures shown here are iconic for the functioning of a constantly growing but planless system that promises civilisational progress while creeping along on the verge of collapse. As much as we are fascinated with the capability of the inhabitants of Bangkok to keep their city alive with modesty, improvisation and a belief in the future in spite of all tension and contradictions, Thomas Kalak’s still chimes with the threats and hazards that could emerge from an unbridled belief in progress.
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This image reminds me of a photo I took when I lived in Beijing ( Another time when I was walking with a friend we saw workers rewiring a pole and there were live wires all over the sidewalk. At one point a wire came falling down very close to where we were walking. It was an exciting experience for sure.
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I hate these kinds of people who go to a place foreign from their own and make a meal out of it - when their own place of origin is also full of crap, but he can't be bothered to document that, cos it just shows his own depression.

What a perfect example of a sad case.
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