Street art is a vibrant form of expression all across the Asian cityscapes. But in Bangkok, one artist has taken the form to an intriguing extreme. Distinguished by a series of equations, slanted lines, circled objects and cryptic phrases written in both Thai and English, the art resembles a treasure map of some sort. For Raphael Treza, the director of the entertaining documentary short Mystery Mind Maps, the real treasure is in uncovering the identity of this artist. Over the course of five days, he attempts to track down the creator of these ubiquitous drawings and attain some semblance of meaning from his work.
The city center is covered with thousands of these drawings - on concrete barriers, electrical grids, sidewalks, light posts, pillars and underpasses. Passersby have witnessed new works emerge on an ongoing basis for many years. Many do not know the artist's identity, but most assume the drawings reflect a kind of mental disorder.
When Treza does happen upon those who claim to know the artist, they warn not to approach. He's crazy and aggressive, they claim.
Undeterred, Treza eventually tracks down the mystery artist. His name is Pichai, a homeless man with a fascinating life and a wholly unique view of the world. Over dinner, he shares the motivations behind his work, the tragedies that have befallen him during his lifetime, and his feelings on whether or not he considers himself a true artist.
This opens the film to a larger canvas that transcends a mere personality portrait. Like all good art, it implies a series of deeper questions to those who are willing to search for them. Is the enigmatic quality of this artist's work - the fact that passersby struggle to understand its implications - where the real art lies? If it defined for us - and that back and forth communication ends - do the works lose their value? What defines art, and how can it reflect the inner turmoil and triumphs of its makers?
Finally, there's the personal journey of Pichai that lingers the most. Perhaps the most meaningful element of the film is how it shows that even the discarded among us can harbor extraordinary gifts and life stories.
Directed by: Raphael Treza