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Pietro Lo Casto, A Study in Deception, 2022, Installation view, FAG2 Gallery, Khon Kaen

A STUDY IN DECEPTION

Khon Kaen, Thailand, 2022

A Study in Deception (2022) is not merely a research project developed by Pietro Lo Casto for his one-month “International Artist in Residency” with the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, but also the artist’s attempt to deepen his study of the relationship between the visuality of the Anthropocene, marketing tactics, and other techniques of propaganda that, through various kinds of media, have been extensively produced since the cold war era, when the northeast part of Thailand was seen as a target for development discourse.

His interest in the issues surrounding the dams in the region, pulls his focus towards the recent proposal to build a "floating solar farm" in Ubolratana Dam, north of Khon Kaen. A project that will see an area of over 750,000 square meters on the dam's reservoir covered with solar panels. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has positioned the plan as an ideal geo-engineering solution to provide clean energy for Thailand’s new carbon neutrality goals without affecting the environment. 1

Meanwhile, the condition of the surrounding communities impacted by the dam have continued to deteriorate over the years. Cultural rituals such as the "Bun Bung Fai Rocket Festival", where rockets are being shoot to the sky to ask the divinities to provide enough rain for the harvest, still persist today. On one hand showing the strong spiritual connection that still exists between humans and the environment, on the other hand, perhaps, revealing the failure of the dams to deliver on the false promises of optimal water management.

Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, video still
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Thanks to his prior experience in the marketing sphere, he has been able to read, decode and extract a set of important evidence indicating a system of large-scale, effective techniques of persuasion that the government has adopted to push forward climate solutions based on techno-fixes, in part, as a way to avoid addressing the deeper roots of environmental issues and social injustice that exist in Isan. 2

An interesting finding is a series of postage stamps created by the Communications Authority of Thailand, printed with lithographic technique, that celebrates the country’s most important dams. According to a note by a high-ranking official, these stamps are to make known the benefits the dams bring to agriculture while also protecting from floods. These and other found material, makes up the installation titled “How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022”. The fabric used in the work is the same low-cost material villagers used to protest the government. The stamps of aquatic species are a reminder of the ecosystem destruction caused by the dams.

Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, water-based ink on fabric, steel, wood, rope
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, water-based ink on fabric, steel, wood, rope
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, water-based ink on fabric, steel, wood, rope
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, water-based ink on fabric, steel, wood, rope
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, water-based ink on fabric, steel, wood, rope
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, archive image printed on paper, 120x180 cm
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Pietro Lo Casto, How to Greenwash a Disaster, 2022, archive image printed on paper, 120x180 cm
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On the other side of the room, a two-channel video installation titled “Importance of Thai Dams, 2022” not only showcase part of the artist’s research material but, on the left screen, it sheds light on the government’s visual techniques of persuasion and the history of oppression associated with the dams, as well as the local practices of resistance to this process. Those images intertwine with footage of the social and environmental chaos affecting the region. On the right screen, an interview with a local environmental expert articulates the key facts and warnings associated with large water management projects in Isan.

Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams, 2022, Two-channel video installation, dimensions variable

Pietro Lo Casto, Importance of Thai Dams 2022, Two-channel video installation, 3 minutes teaser

At the center of the exhibition space is a sculpture created using both used and newly purchased solar panels. Titled “Shapeshifter, 2022” the object presents itself as an enigmatic figure, perhaps hinting at the form of a human body. The study of semiotic and storytelling describes the archetype of the Shapeshifter as a very changeable character, difficult to read. Eco Modernists promise green development through technological innovation, but the artist suggests we look with a critical eye at the misleading image of a “Good Anthropocene”.

Pietro Lo Casto, Shapeshifter, 2022, solar panels, 230x80x100 cm
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Pietro Lo Casto, Shapeshifter, 2022, solar panels
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Pietro Lo Casto, Shapeshifter, 2022, solar panels
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Pietro Lo Casto, Shapeshifter, 2022, solar panels, 230x80x100 cm
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Pietro Lo Casto, Shapeshifter, 2022, solar panels, 230x80x100 cm
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Text by Prajak Supantee

Curator, Khontemporary Artist Residency

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