Bye Bye Bangkok Stonehenge

Failed solution to Bangkok traffic problem, eyesore reminder of wasted money & corrupt politicians, finally immortalized as street art.

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Pillars of shame to go

20 Feb 2013
Yanapon Musiket

They're known, sarcastically, as Bangkok's Stonehenge. The abandoned Hopewell pillars have graced - or disgraced - our north-bound highway like shameful, or shameless, monuments that everybody wishes to forget. These unused pillars stand awkwardly to remind us, souvenirs of failure and corruption over the past 20 years.

But in a month this hopeless Hopewell leftover will soon become history.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) recently signed a 21.2 billion baht deal with Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) to build the Red Line electric rail section from Bang Sue to Rangsit. Over 500 concrete structures will be demolished within 30 to 45 days. According to the report, the Bang Sue-Rangsit link is expected to be completed in three years.

On and around these structures, unknown artists - those who straddle the fine line between art and vandalism - have found their canvases. Cutting-edge graffiti artists have spray-painted comic images, satirical quotes and abstract patterns, and they help add a vibe of urban discontentment to these unfortunate ruins. Some of these images are professionally created, and even deserve a showcase in museums or art galleries.One of the lettered creations reads: "Carcasses of the cheating culture." The illegal nature of graffiti does its social service by reminding us of another, bigger, more detrimental illegality.

Soon this graffiti will disappear with the demolition work. Our photographer, Pattarapong Chatpattarasill recently went to the Hopewell Stonehenge to document the highlights of this colourful street art.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Arts, Pillars of shame to go, 20 Feb 2013, Yanapon Musiket, link


Graffiti & Street Art Vocabulary

Hopewell pillars - what remains of a famous failed Bangkok mass transit project: "a failed project to build an elevated highway and rail line from central Bangkok to Don Muang Airport. Construction started in 1990, but was suspended by the 1st government of Anand Panyarachun in 1992, and was finally halted by legal acrimony in 1997 with only 10-13% complete. The project was cancelled in 1998," also known as the Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System (BERTS, Thai: โครงการระบบการขนส่งทางรถไฟยกระดับในกรุงเทพมหานคร), Hopewell Project (โครงการโฮปเวลล์) (See Wikipedia & On the career of Montri Pongpanit: Lest we forgetGoogle Images)

pillars
- tall solid supports for a building เสาหิน ตอหม้อ หรือ คานรับน้ำหนัก
unused pillars


street art - visual art in public spaces and on the walls buildings streets, usually art without government or company sponsor: "The term can include traditional graffiti artwork, sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, and street installations" (See Wikipedia)

graffiti
- writing or drawings that have been sprayed or drawn on walls or other surface in a public place, usually without permission (illicit) (See Wikipedia)

shame - the guilty and embarassed feeling you have when you know people saw you behaving badly
pillars of shame
pillars of shame to go

sarcastically - critical in a way that makes someone or something seem foolish, often by saying the opposite of what you mean อย่างเสียดสี
They're known, sarcastically, as Bangkok's Stonehenge.

abandoned - left someone and no longer used ที่ถูกละทิ้ง
the abandoned Hopewell pillars

north-bound - going in the direction of north
north-bound highway

grace
- to make something more attractive and interesting
disgrace -
  to do something bad that makes people lose respect for you 
graced - or disgraced - our north-bound highway

shameful -
having lots of shame
shameless -
having no shame

monuments - a large structure or statue built in a public place to remember an important person or event
shameful, or shameless, monuments that everybody wishes to forget.

The abandoned Hopewell pillars have graced - or disgraced - our north-bound highway like shameful, or shameless, monuments that everybody wishes to forget.

awkward (adjective) - a situation that is embarassing and difficult to deal with 
awkwardly (adverb)
stand awkwardly

corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery and political corruption)

souvenir - something that reminds you of something (usually something you get at a tourist place when you visit there)
souvenirs of failure and corruption

remind - to make someone think of something they have forgotten or might have forgotten เตือนความจำ
remind us of

These unused pillars stand awkwardly to remind us, souvenirs of failure and corruption over the past 20 years.

become history - meaning: will not exist anymore (but has been recorded in history)
But in a month this hopeless Hopewell leftover will soon become history.

demolished - destroy completely ทำลายให้สิ้นซาก

Over 500 concrete structures will be demolished within 30 to 45 days.

link - to connect เชื่อม
expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)

According to the report, the Bang Sue-Rangsit link is expected be completed in three years.

straddle - 1. to be on both sides of something; 2. to have  a leg on either side of something (example: straddle a horse)
straddle the fine line between

vandalism - the crime of intentionally damaging property belonging to other people การทำลายทรัพย์สินโดยเฉพาะของรัฐอย่างไร้เหตุผล
straddle the fine line between art and vandalism

canvas - the heavy cloth stretched on wood used by artists in oil painting

On and around these structures, unknown artists - those who straddle the fine line between art and vandalism - have found their canvases.

graffiti -
pictures or words painted on walls in public places
graffiti artists

cutting-edge - the most recent and advanced (example: the expensive new mobile phone uses the most cutting edge technology) 
cutting-edge graffiti artists

urban - of or in a city or town ในเมือง
urban discontentment

comic - makes you laugh, like a joke
comic images

satire
(noun) - the use of humour to criticize and find fault with someone and make them look funny and silly
satirical
(adjective)

quote -
to say or write again words that another person has said or written in the past
satirical quotes

pattern - a repeated set of shapes, lines and colours
abstract patterns - shapes that do not look any person or thing

spray-paint

spray-painted comic images, satirical quotes and abstract patterns

vibe - feeling อารมณ์ความรู้สึกที่มีต่อคน สิ่งของ สถาน
add a vibe of urban discontentment to these unfortunate ruins

unfortunate - unlucky โชคร้าย, เคราะห์ไม่ดี
ruins - the remains of a building that has been badly damaged or destroyed ซากปรักหักพัง
these
unfortunate ruins

cutting-edge graffiti artists
have spray-painted comic images, satirical quotes and abstract patterns, and they help add a vibe of urban discontentment to these unfortunate ruins.

art galleries - buildings where you can view paintings or other works of art

showcase - an opportunity to show the best qualities or parts of something แสดงจุดเด่นของสิ่งของหรือคน
a showcase in museums or art galleries

Some of these images are professionally created, and even deserve a showcase in museums or art galleries.

cheat -
to lie or act dishonestly, not follow the rules, to gain something
cheating culture  

carcass - a dead body of an animal
carcasses of the cheating culture

One of the lettered creations reads: "Carcasses of the cheating culture."

illegal (adjective) - against the law ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
illegality (noun)

nature - the basic quality of something ธรรมชาติของสิ่งต่างๆ ลักษณะที่แท้จริงของสิ่งต่างๆ, ธรรมชาติ
the illegal nature of graffiti

detrimental - damaging, harmful (hurting, not helping)
detrimental illegality

another, bigger, more detrimental illegality
reminding us of another, bigger, more detrimental illegality.

The illegal nature of graffiti does its social service by reminding us of another, bigger, more detrimental illegality.

demolition - complete destruction การรื้อถอน, การทำลาย
demolition work

Soon this graffiti will disappear with the demolition work.

document - to record something in writing or other form (that can be used as evidence or record for people in future)
highlights - the important parts of some event or activity

document the highlights
document the highlights of colourful street art

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer