the eternal lives of the dead

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The Eternal Lives of the Dead: A Comparative Study of the Images of Mustafa Kemal Atatrk (Turkey) and King Chulalongkorn (Siam)

Thanavi Chotpradit S0600105

Supervisor Prof. Dr. C.J.M. Zijlmans Department of Art History Universiteit Leiden

Thesis Research Master: Western and Asian Art Histories in Comparative Perspective Specialization: History and Theory of Modern and Contemporary Art

January 2009

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Making the Absence Presence: The Change of the Pictorial Tradition in Turkey and Siam


Prohibiting Realistic Living Images: The Pictorial Tradition in the Ottoman Empire and Siam

- The Beginning of Realistic Representation in the Republic of Turkey and Siam - Turkey Siam

- Conclusion

Chapter 2

Political Aspects of the Adoption of the Realistic Art Discourse and Nationalism in the Figures of the National Fathers: Images of Atatrk And King Chulalongkorn in the Early Modern Period


Defining Turkey: Atatrks Statues and Monuments in the Early Republican Period - Atatrk as the Father of the New Nation: The Victory Monument (Ankara) - Atatrk as the Guide of the Turks: Monument to a Secure, Confident Future (Ankara)


The Siamese and their King: Nationalism in the Equestrian Statute of King Chulalongkorn



Chapter 3 -

The Return of the Monarchy: Images and King Chulalongkorn Cult

The Return of the Monarchy King Chulalongkorn Cult and the Neo-Royalism The Two Great Kings: King Chulalongkorns image and the Empowering of King Bhumibol Worshipping King Chulalongkorns images: Irony, or a Form of local Modernity?


Chapter 4

The Revival of the Dead: Images of Atatrk in Turkeys Contemporary Politics


Atatrk of the Atatrkists Atatrk of the Islamists The Superstition and the Images of Atatrk



Source of Illustration

Introduction In the cult of the remembrance of dead or absent loved ones, the cult value of the image finds its last refuge.

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Its technological Reproducibility: Third Version (2003, p. 258)

An image is a prolongation of the presence of the people who have passed away. When images are set among us, the dead are kept among the living and the inert become livelyto such an extent that we may even be afraid of it. They serve as an artificial body of those who no longer have the real bodies, then, make an absence visible and engages in the ritual of remembrance. In 2007, I first visited Turkey and was so fascinated by the images of the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatrk. I saw his images in various forms ranging from the states campaign and statues in the public sphere to the pictures in the private houses. That phenomenon reminded me very much of my native country Thailand, a place where one would find the images of one of the kings, Chulalongkorn, in a very similar manner. There is another image cultthat is the cult of King Bhumibolwhich is now so much stronger than that of King Chulalongkorn. However, I chose the King Chulalongkorn cult as a subject of this comparative study on the present day cult image for two reasons. Firstly, as King Chulalongkorn is no longer living, he is comparable to Atatrk; their cults suggest superstition beliefs, a matter of the primitive, pre-scientific-westernized consciousness. Secondly, as the adoption of the modernist discourses in Thailand took place in the reign of Chulalongkorn as well as in that of Atatrk, it is the best starting point to explore how the modernist discourse in the Non-West appears to be discursive. The cult of King Chulalongkorn is the phenomenon that proves the existence of the tradition in the modern(ized) society. From this, the question arises; why are particular deceased political, i.e. national leaders are re-incarnated, by whom, at what time, for what purposes, and in what forms do they (re)appear? One of the most powerful symbols is the image of a political leader, especially the ones passed away, as they have served many times and places world wide as symbols of political orders and/or regimes. Images function as a symbol, as reified, and as an embodiment of a political ideology of the person who became an image. Moreover, by taking a form of portraiture, it is a political ideology that is, finally, personified. This is the reason why we think of communist ideology when seeing Marxs or Lenins face. Symbols have always been used by, and for, or against, the authority; while people in North Korea were

made to venerate the picture of Kim Jong-Il (he is still alive, however), Saddam Husseins statue in Baghdad was torn down after the fall of his regime in 2003. Idolatry and iconoclasm are two sides of the same coin. No matter how we treat the images, we are all aware that they have a seductive power. What do the politics concerning the dead which turned into political symbols signify? How do the politicized and symbolized images of the dead function in politics? The first question concerns the political actions of the deceased leader, when he was alive; what happened in the past that made him become a political symbol? The second question concerns the contemporary political situation; what happens in the present that evokes the reincarnation and the use of that deceased, as a form of a symbol of the political ideology? These are the main questions of this thesis that I will answer through an examination of the visual representation of particular deceased leaders from Thailand and Turkey. This thesis will be a study of the use of the images of King Chulalongkorn (also known as King Rama V, r. 1853 1910) of Siam (became the Kingdom of Thailand in 1939) and Mustafa Kemal Atatrk (1881-1938, Turkey) both of whom became a cult, and were worshipped by their people. Through the presence of their images, King Chulalongkorn and Atatrk are (re)produced, manipulated, circulated, and consumed within society. Now that I started posting the socio-political questions in the image production and distribution, I am, more or less, doing something beyond the territory of art history. To study the role and the function of the image in the political sphere and the response of the public to such images in both the history and the present day, requires a wider area of study than that of the particular genre and framework of art history. I will employ some perspectives from other disciplines especially that of anthropology, history, and political science. Images in the nonartistic media will be included in this research as they also serve as a symbolical communication. The thesis will take both artworks and images from everyday life. The area of study thus goes beyond the realm of high art into everyday objects. There will be a wide range of forms of image: portraiture, photography, sculpture, monument, and various forms of commodity. The two cases share a similarity as being cults created after their death, yet studying their cults cannot avoid referring to the past when they were alive. Who were these rulers, what did they do in the history of crisis in their countries? By going into the historical, social and political situations of that time, we will understand the importance of these leaders in their own contexts. The role of an anecdote, biography and, perhaps myth (in other words, imaginative narrative) of the person who becomes an icon, is relevant for the empowerment of the image of that person. The information from the past serves as a starting point of the manipulation, the reasons why the chosen dead were revived at a chosen moment.

It is necessary to see them along the line of history, yet it does not mean that their present identities and meanings are the same as in the past. When focusing on the contemporary, it is important, too, to look at the past, because, in this way, one will be able to see the changes of the meaning and the function of images. While there seems to be a continuity from the past to the present, when the cult was initiated and sustained, the symbolic values and meanings of these deceased are indeed disrupted by different groups of power that reproduced and manipulated them. What emotions could their images arouse? Love? Fear? Loyalty? Gratitude? This is a question of the relationship between the image and the mass beholder. To put it another way, it is to study the public perception and response (an emotional feeling and behavior like fear, empathy, etc), or what Nathaniel Hawthorne termed as the opinion of the crowd. 1 What are the beliefs that motivate the beholder to specific actions and behaviors concerning a particular image? What arouses, what I would call, national empathy? On the other hand, this view of response indicates the efficacy and the effectiveness of images too. It is not only the beholders feeling and behavior, but also the efficacy, effectiveness, and vitality of images themselves. I do agree with David Freedburg, an American art historian who wrote The Power of Images. Studies in the History and Theory of Response that the study of the response towards images has to be done by considering together the phenomenon around it in order to get to know its use and its function. The study on response will associate with the consideration on the beliefs that motivate the beholder to a specific response.2 However, the dead cannot speak, but they are capable of being interpreted in many ways. Katherine Verdery points out that the bodys symbolic effectiveness does not depend on its standing for one particular thing, but on its ambiguity, multivocality, or polysemy.3 Their images do not have a single meaning; the meaning can be evaluated from many angles. They are constructed. This thesis aims to investigate the connection between th