Tulapop Saenjaroen Introduces His Film "Squish!"

"Such values [of animation] catalyze alternative ways of thinking, seeing, and living; they can possibly irrationalize the rationalized."
Tulapop Saenjaroen's Squish! is showing exclusively on MUBI starting August 8, 2022, in the series Brief Encounters.
I had a chance to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath many years ago. As I remember, I was immensely touched by it emotionally. Though I cannot recall the details and plot so well, there is one monologue that is still stuck in my mind ’til this day. Plath writes, "The only reason I remembered this play was because it had a mad person in it, and everything I had ever read about mad people stuck in my mind, while everything else flew out."
Everything else is missing but the subject. 
The initial idea of Squish! is derived from my personal urge to question how depression is usually represented on screen and how it could possibly be done otherwise. It is often ironic when contemporary representations utilize depression as a “subject” while, paradoxically, depression itself is missing in the representation. Often when I witness the representation of this subject, I wonder why there is such a sense of discrimination: be it telling a story in a patronizing tone, imposingly oversimplifying it as reductive and accessible, or even rationalizing it into mere scientific research as a private health issue while public discourse disavows and incessantly commodifies it. The subject is missing, yet everything else is there, and often overwhelmingly so.
In this regard, Squish!'s attempt is not only to question the relation between aesthetics and politics but also to reclaim the sense of the subject, especially the overly reductive ones: marginalized, privatized, and irrationalized. The idea is to destabilize the dichotomization of the established rationality and irrationality—what counts as rational and what doesn't count as such—and to initiate the inseparable condition as a new standpoint against the given power game.
Behind-the-scenes photo by Supamart Boonnil.
During the project's development, I was also fascinated by the medium of animation, especially early animated films and animations that fully embrace their intrinsic qualities. I find it intriguing when animation is treated as an extension of reality and rationality and how it implements self-referential and self-reflexive approaches. For instance, apart from being drawn unrealistically, movement is often made explicit, manifesting the fact that it was created from multiple drawings, being replaced with a new frame redrawn, over and over. On some occasions, the character even exits their frame and interacts with our so-called "reality." For me, these specific qualities of the virtual that animation proposes signify unique and subversive potentials, e.g., to defy gravity, be irrational, be able to deform and transform, be able to animate the inanimate, and so on. Such values potentially catalyze alternative ways of thinking, seeing, and living; they can possibly irrationalize the rationalized, and vice versa.
Together with the contemporary context where images are overflooding at an exponential speed, becoming increasingly physical, invasive, and functional in our everyday life, animated and computer-generated image production tends to employ commercially oriented and flawless high-tech aesthetics that aim at greater realism—a prescribed specification. Animation’s unique potentials are often subdued and coerced to fit into the established logic(s)/"reality"; be it bureaucratic fixation, political agenda, capitalist protocol, et cetera. Isn't this a reversal of virtual-to-actual logic? (Not to mention how these overarching aesthetics affect the brain in conceiving and perceiving a subject.) Thus, hypothetically, what seems to change is only the surface. The inner part remains inaccessible, as it has been covered by tantalizing skin. This is unlike the process wherein animation’s mechanism and skeleton are explicitly revealed as an open gate for one to interact and participate with—it is possible, with animation, for one to travel out rather than being merely locked in.
It is tragic to witness these potentials in animation dying out today (again, it's the potentiality, not precisely the specific techniques). Now, it feels like even nonsense makes sense, but the make-sense is never nonsensical. As scary as it sounds, this might imply that the future is already taken and specifically designed. In this regard, does animation still give life or take life away? Are we being more and more animated, de-animated, or, if possible, both?
In my view, it's not a question of how sharp, realistic, logically physical, or rational the animation can be, nor is it a question of going back in time and fixating on the old way. Rather, it is a question of movement—does a movement actually move? Is the movement being forced to move in a predetermined direction? If that's the case, what and/or who predetermines it, and to what end? Is it running somewhere or repeatedly in the same spot on a treadmill? Is the movement some kind of seamless loop? Or is it just a pile of blank papers?
The conditions of life in which happiness, success, and good health are paradoxically interlinked to dismay, self-hatred, and mental/physical exhaustion now exist both online and offline. My social media accounts somehow know that my mental health has been in an ailing state. They persistently suggest that I watch ASMR video clips or try sleep aid apps. Nowadays, the notion of self-care and work seem to share the same process: exploitatively, the externalized internalization of self-governance.
Prop set sketches and documents by Amonsiri Yamakupt.


IntroductionsNow ShowingTulapop Saenjaroen
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