“A response to the observation of thai labourer leisure time in taichung” 





As a background for the project in 2014, research was conducted about Thai labourers’ perspectives in The U.K. This was then artistically recorded, explored and portrayed through Installation art, video art and documentary photograph. The work brings to light, real people's lives through honest video interviews with labourers in each city. The weight of this project lays partly in how little access and acknowledgement there was between local people and the lives of the labourers around them. An entry, the project delivers with a testament to the potential of the artistic media applied, such as; video, photograph, text, and Installation. All collecting together, a single story from a strand of variety, in a navigational space with accessible aesthetics. 

From the artist's perspective, this might be the art form that provides the most powerful connection between the real human beings, and the social issues which people are consciously aware. We can record a reality which the viewer cannot experience themselves. Hence, it is a representational medium (Arneson, 2012). Documentary can reflect and mimic expository argument. It is the effective means in which to to convey an argument about the world (Nichols, 1991). Additionally, creates a sensation for the viewers to get the feeling of being here, now looking at the artworks and there, looking at what is behind, what the artworks represents (Dant, 1999). Thereby, it is effective to encourage a point of view about something because to provides that window of travel. 

A documentary video is used to signify truth so the audience can understand and reconstruct the ideas of forced labour from the labours’ point of views and also convey the emotion of that reality. As The Gray Circle (2012) stated, “the documentary filmmaking as video art, they are intended for video and film that could be considered "documentary art". This is not for documentary films on the subject of art, but rather documentary films that use elements of film or video art to help express their meaning.” For these reasons, the artist has been working on artworks about Thai labourers in order to access information at a greater level of depth. However, the focus was directed towards the group of Thai migrant labourers from Asia where there is a quite similar culture and tradition, a way of life and a way of being.

There is a widespread perception that many Southeast Asia workers are manual labour workers who might have different ways of life from professionals, office employees and knowledge workers in their countries. In contrast, there are some groups of Thai labourer that might try to get better lives by working in other countries where currency holds a greater value. As Thai Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Labour (2014) reveals Thai labour situation in Taiwan that “most of them or 59,958 workers worked in the manufacturing sector, accounting for 23.65 percent of the total foreign workers, followed by construction sector at 1,985 (67.15 percent). 761 workers were domestic workers/curators, accounting for 0.36 percent while 17 worked in agricultural/ fisheryrelated sectors, accounting for 0.18 percent. A total of 44,559 Thai workers worked in areas under the jurisdiction of the Office of Labour Affairs in Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Nantou, Hualien, Yilan, Jin Ming and Lian Jiang. The Office of Labour Affairs in Kaohsiung looked after the remaining 18,162 Thai workers.” It also shows many problems such as language, the human trafficking problem, crime, victimising and conflicts between ways of life. From the one perspective, it can be seen that within this statistic information is the high number of Thai labourers, that seem to hold quite significant figures.

Nevertheless, the project is pointing to a different view, away from solely statistic information and towards a visual description, by the way of artworks, that might be the more powerful media to access and explore Thai labourers in Taiwan. Including in their ‘characters’ and ‘lifestyles’ such as resting time, entertainment, food, income, social life and their identities. Besides these perspectives, many visitors might gain different perspectives from social workers and human rights workers who sometimes argue about only rights, inequality and economics. 


The concept behind the art exhibition “Over Time”


In the contemporary world, Time structuring has become an important defining aspect of how human beings live in regards to their work. A migrant labour’s time might be exploited or dominated by a person who has the authority to control them. A result or example of this is, can be found in regards to the 3 years working contract, allowing simply one day off each a week. As a consequence, there arise a question of what level of happiness these labourers hold, and do they spend these allocated occasions spending money, working for more, or resting. Some are just waiting for a moment where they can return home. 


Project aims


Although there has been interest in human rights and developing policies to protect ethnic minorities, relatively little attention has been paid to these minority workers and there are still several pending issues that still need to be resolved. This project aims to access and explore the personal thoughts of Thai labourers and represent them, in a much greater depth, through documentary art. A variety of analytic perspectives from both the artist and the labourers themselves have generated a conflicted view on these controversial issues. This project aims to be the labourers representative, including an insight into their ‘characters’ and ‘lifestyles’, through a video interview, photographs ,the local Thai typography of labourer’s quotation, and artist’s diary through an Installation presentation. 


Project design and methodology


This art project is about personal life stories, which is are a very individual and complex issue. Therefore, the qualitative research method seemed to be the best approach for this project as it allows the study of a widely ranging social dimension while maintaining the contextual focus. Additionally, it gives more understanding in the meaning and context of complicated and personal situation.


1. Literature Search

This project will gather secondary data from previous studies and literature mainly from books, journals and the internet to gain a better understanding about the concept of the identity of Thai labour in Taiwan, through the creation of artwork. The author is certain that these studies will give a better understanding of documentary art concepts and the general idea of migrant labour. In doing so, it is possible to gather large amount of information with relative ease, in a short period of time.


2. Interview (video recording)

Interview method offers the opportunity to develop an understanding of how Thai labourers in Taiwan think about the aim of the their lives, including their ‘characters’ and ‘lifestyles’. Their personal experience is a very intimate topic that interview methods can effectively manoeuvre and engage as well as giving a greater scope for an in-depth probing of the participants’ experiences. The interview questions will be mostly open-ended because this research aims to gather Thai labourers’ opinions and experiences about their lives in Taiwan. In addition, open-ended questions allow the researcher to get fuller and more detailed answers from the participants. The participants will be given a feeling of control in the interview situation so, they can answer the question as they wish. 

Participant: The participants will be selected, providing they meet the requirement of being a full-time Thai labour worker in Taiwan and working for more than 5 years.


3.Black and white photograph

Art photography is a genre where we often see the use of monochrome. A practical preference for black-and-white photography comes down partly to a simpler development process, but there is also a structural focus which ignites a passion for it's aesthetic value. The emphasis on shapes and forms, leaps straight into the figure at the focus, free from the distractions of colour relationships. In addition to this, a long held and historic association between black and white photography and photo journalism for newspapers has ingrained it's use with an association of “the truth”. Black and-white photography thus becomes the most apparent means in which to present the information of labourers lifestyle and cut straight to the heart of the state of their situation which the greatest representation and suggestion of validity.


4. Local Thai Typography Painting 

Local Thai Typography Painting is an element found around Thai karaoke and restaurants, places where Thai labourers come to relax. It echoes the familiar fashion of these aged and integrated decorations with an old Thai font, highlight colour, material, and led lighting. However, behind any pastiche is there acting as a representational link to the realistic reflections of labourer life. 


5.The artist’s diary 

The artist’s diary provides a connecting thread for the artworks of this exhibition. It acts as a point of response, or reference, to the observations of thai labourer leisure time in taichung.  




The project will be a different view, away from solely statistic information and towards a visual description, by the way of artworks, that might be the more powerful media to access and explore Thai labourers in Taiwan. Including in their ‘characters’ and ‘lifestyles’ such as resting time, entertainment, food, income, social life and their identities. Besides these perspectives, many visitors might gain different perspectives from social workers and human rights workers who sometimes argue about only rights, inequality and economics. This form of artwork might be called “the documentary art” through an Installation presentation which consists of the interviewing video and photograph of Thai labours in Taiwan towards their perspectives and lifestyle. The viewers can gain new perspectives from videos, text and photograph. Meanwhile, These labours have more chances to describe their stories in the art space. Significantly, it might change some of biased perspectives to separate human classes. 




This artwork might be a representative of migrant labourers who are exploited by employers. It might describe their aims and life stories in Taiwan to a wider public eye. In addition, it allows them to express their thoughts and aims in art space. It is mainly for anyone who has an interest in arts, human rights and Thai labourers. 


Ethical consideration


First of all, the artist will surely inform every participants about all aspects and detail of this project so, the participant can decide whether they want to be a part of the project or not. Moreover, all participants will also be made aware that the withdrawal from the project is possible at anytime.

Secondly, the artist will put in the highest efforts to protect participants’ privacy by removing and not mention any information that will indicate identity of the participants if they do not want their identity to be revealed.

Lastly, the results of the project will be presented in the public. Hence, the communities as well as the participants are aware of the information gathered from them. In this way, it can prevent their feeling of being take advantages for the artist’s personal benefits. Finally, this project is meant not to harm any individuals or organisations. 




Arneson, K. (2012). Representation through Documentary: A Post-Modern Assessment. 6: University of Missouri.

Arnheim, R. (1974). Art and visual perception. Berkeley: University of California Press. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Dant, T. (1999). Material culture in the social world. Value activities, lifestyles. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Nichols, B. (1991). Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Indian university Press: Bloomington. pp.4.

The Gray Circle (2012). Documentary Art. [Website]. Available from: <http://vimeo.com/groups/ documentaryart>. [Accessed: 8 January 2016]. 




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