Technology has become an ever-present part of modern life, but should it follow us to our graves as well? One Thai sculptor is being criticized for experimenting with that very idea.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Bhumibol the Great) of Thailand died in October, and in accordance with Thai custom his passing was marked with a year of public mourning. That period will end this October with the king’s official cremation, a five-day funeral and the unveiling of a burial complex filled with hundreds of statues.
One of those statues was created by Pitak Chalermlao, a sculptor in the Thai Culture Ministry’s Department of Fine Arts. He created a model of the Garuda, a half bird, half human creature in Hindu and Buddhist mythology who is believed to transport kings up to heaven.
But Chalermlao’s statue came with a bonus—he chiseled Apple, Facebook and Google logos into the piece, ostensibly to pay tribute to the late king’s embrace of technology. The Apple and Google logos were nestled in the center of the Garuda’s wings, while a Facebook logo was etched onto the animal’s belt buckle.
Not surprisingly, these additions caused a fair bit of controversy after Chalermlao posted photos of them on Facebook, with people calling them “ugly” and “a shame.”
“Fix it, I’m begging you,” one commenter wrote.
The Department of Fine Arts also criticized the statue because it did not relate to traditional Thai beliefs.
Chalermlao said in a Facebook post that he would remove the logos from the statue because of the outcry.
“I did this job to show my pride for His Majesty like everyone else,” the artist wrote.
Ironically, while King Bhumibol may have embraced technology, he was also merciless toward those who he thought misused it. He was a longtime proponent of Thailand’s policy against lèse-majesté (literally “violating majesty,” or insulting royalty) and used it late in life to punish people who wrote insulting comments about the royal family on social media.