Sippakorn “Ken” Khiaosanthia is a 24-year-old art graduate from Silpakorn University. He’s the artist behind the Instagram and Facebook pages, Baphoboy. The artistry of his work is something to be appreciated, the social commentary offered is something to make you pause and think. We grabbed a beer with him and got to know the person behind the screen.
Tell us about your work process. What inspires you?
My art is my therapy. I always keep up with the news and politics, and it usually stresses me out. So, when I get stressed from the news, I start drawing and creating arts. On top of stress, now I also want to change things. I want people to care more about social issues. This is not even about politics, but it’s about your basic human rights, equality and fairness in this society. My work usually has some unmentionable hidden messages in there, maybe it’s in the colors I choose, or in some symbols. The more you know about Thailand or Thai history, the more in-depth you can see.
What are you trying to portray through your art?
I want to be another platform for people to see the problems in our society, that’s not through texts. When you first discover my page, you might not realize it yet what I’m trying to say. But after a few visits, you might stop and think that, hey, there might actually be some people who could be taking advantage of us in this society.
There are some people in Thailand who don’t care about the problems unless they, themselves, are affected. I want those people to realize the problems.
One problem is that the education system doesn’t really teach us art students to be courageous, so a lot of art students are suppressed. I also want to set an example to other art students that this kind of art—the kind that asks questions—actually works and is doable.
Have you been getting any backlash?
Not anymore since after I graduated from university. When I was a student though, yes. Teachers would warn me when my art was touching too much on politics. Ever since I was in high school, I would always question why we needed to have the haircut rule, or uniforms. I thought that I would have more freedom when I got into university. It turned out I was wrong, there were actually a lot of rules.
How does this affect your creativity?
It made me want to get out of that strict box of rules. But then again, not every student is going to feel like they want to fight the system and get out of those strict rules. Some might think, why fight it? Just trying to live our everyday life is already very exhausting, which I can understand. So, some of them might just want to live their lives and not have to do the extra, unnecessary battles.
Are you scared?
I’m not trying to be naive, I know that certain things can happen. But I have to tell myself that I have freedom of speech. If I keep worrying about things, it would limit my creativity. So, I just do my arts and not let myself be scared. It is sad, really, that there’s a box to limit what you can and can’t talk about. The question is, why can’t we talk about a certain topic? They need to answer us this.
Do any of these characters in your art have names?
I don’t have to tell you what to think or what to see in my art. If you’re someone who always keeps up with the news, my characters might look like someone or some situation to you. You can look at the art and find out for yourself.
Do your parents know about this? What do they think about this?
No, they don’t. My parents and I actually have completely opposite views on politics, but we can still talk. They don’t tell me what to think or who to support. They don’t give me rules or suppress my thoughts. They trust me and I’m quite lucky in that sense.
If you were “made to disappear,” what would be your last words?
Would they even allow me to say something? [laughs]. In all seriousness, if that really happened, I probably wouldn’t be able to say something on that day, but today I can. I want people to see my work and hear me. One day if I disappeared, I wouldn’t be just that one kid who disappeared. I would be the one with principles, who has disappeared. I don’t want to be just another kid who is interested in politics.