GALLERY: Liminal Bangkok 2021
With the locked-down, curfewed city largely deserted as we pine for the old, pre-COVID times and wonder what will remain once things return to ‘normal’, Bangkok is most definitely in a state of liminality – and if you’re not sure what that means, here’s a good definition from Chicago School of Media Theory:
The notion of a liminal period was first introduced by ethnographer Arnold van Gennep in his exposition of the “rites de passage,” or rite of passage “which accompany every change of place, state, social position and age.” For van Gennep, a rite de passage consists of three stages: the separation, or detachment of a subject from its stabilized environment; the margin, which is an ambiguous state for the subject; and the aggregation, in which the passage has completed and the subject has crossed the threshold into a new fixed, stabilized state. The liminal period of the rite de passage is the second stage that is characterized by being passed through; i.e., the purpose of this period is to transfer the subject from the original site to the new site.
For we have indeed been separated from our stabilised environment, and are awaiting to see what our new fixed state may look like, if it ever arrives. For me as a photographer, that has meant steering clear of the crowded residential neighbourhoods where I normally shoot, and instead frequenting quieter, emptier spaces – abandoned shopping centres, railway tracks, entertainment complexes – and trying to document this uniquely peculiar period in the life of a city that was previously known for its noise, its energy, its crowdedness.
As well as adapting to a new way of life – working from home, eating at home, no nights out in the pub, live music, travel etc etc – I’ve had to adapt to a new way of taking pictures. Gone are the busy neighbourhoods, the crowded markets and temples, the close up street portraits, replaced by an emptiness which, whilst I struggled with it at first, has become more and more fascinating to shoot as the months have gone by. Here’s a selection of images that I think capture Bangkok in its current, surreal, state.