Wednesday, 28 October 2009


There are certain news that one hears that makes them beam from ear to ear and shine with pride, the news that Apichatpong Weerasethakul is among the six finalists for the Hugo Boss Prize 2010 is one such piece of information for me.  The winner is granted some money by the Guggenheim Foundation, the amount of which the fashion house sponsors as well as a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC in the following year.  Amongst the other finalists, is Cao Fei, a photographer/video artist from China who I also love - her work is very lucid and effective.  However, to have Apichatpong in there with his work Primitive, a multi-platform installation is so fantastic I can hardly contain my excitement, nor can I hardly wait to see the work.

A quite a few years back, another Thai won the coveted prize, Rirkrit Tiravanija - for a complex, engaging and powerful installation about freedom of expression and information.

This is a review of the installation by Jessica Lack of the The Guardian . . .  
Soldiers in a derelict house take potshots at a young man walking across a paddy field. He clutches his chest and collapses – but before they have time to reload, the boy is up again. There is no soundtrack: we can see, but not hear, the gun as it jolts backwards. Once again the figure falls, with the same melodramatic twist of the body, but in seconds he rises and continues his journey with an easy nonchalance. This cyclical routine would be harrowing if the soldiers were not so comically impotent. Is he a superhero? The clue lies in another film playing on the opposite wall: a group of farmers are building a spaceship. If this is life, Jim, it is not as we know it.

This is Primitive, a multi-screen installation by the Thai film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul that opened at Liverpool's Fact gallery on 24 September. The work is divided up across three galleries: downstairs is a seven-screen video installation depicting different films of a group of teenage boys playing at soldiers, hanging out, letting off firecrackers and sleeping in a rudimentary spaceship. Upstairs are two movies, one called A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and the other A Music Video: I'm Still Breathing [featuring Moderndog]. In its entirety, Primitivemakes up a larger narrative about a sleepy farming community in north-east Thailand called Nabua ... where in the 1960s villagers were raped, tortured and murdered by the authorities after being accused of communist sympathies.

One can only imagine what with his aesthetics and ability to move and convey emotions in the most subtle and naturalistic way - what this monumental piece of work will do.

The piece is currently at the Musee d'art Moderne de la Ville Paris . . .(one of my favourite museums) until January 2010.

Best of luck to Apichatpong . . . Thai culture thus, Thai art is unique and it is probably about time that such talent and vision is better appreciated, especially in Thailand.  It is ironic that Primitive is commissioned by Haus de Kunst and FACT Liverpool, and produced by Illumination Films, London and Kick the Machine, Bangkok - a piece of work that showcases, critiques and is the creative fruit of a Thai director, not commissioned by Thailand. . . perhaps this will change very soon.  I support 100% global and international collaborations, but it is perhaps high time, that what is so quintessentially Thai (Apichatpong's Tropical Maladie, Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of a Black Tiger), even though not so "commercial" and "easy", should be celebrated, what is seen as primitive, challenging and complex, especially when it is about our culture, should be cherished and encouraged (and definitely not replaced by the highly camp, simplistic and commercial).  Interesting times it is.

A piece which compliments Primitive project called A Letter to Uncle Boonmee will screen here in Bangkok during the World Film Festival which starts on November 6th.

No comments:

Post a Comment