Magazine article Art Monthly

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Magazine article Art Monthly

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Article excerpt

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

BFI Gallery London 14 May to 4 July

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's short film Phantoms of Nabua, 2009, opens with a tropical thunderstorm. Blinding flashes of lightning strike the ground, a crackling neon strip flickers in the heavy rain. As the camera moves backwards, it gradually reveals a freestanding screen; the monsoon turns out to be a cinematic backprojection. Oblivious of the equipment, a group of teenage boys fool around in the dark with a flaming ball. It feels like a spontaneous event, kids playing in a remote and indeterminate Asian country. They shriek and giggle, thrilled by the danger while specks of light cross the air like delirious fireflies. The tension grows with the boys' excitement, and soon the inevitable happens: the freestanding screen bursts into flame and disintegrates into ashes, exposing the dazzling eye of a projector behind. BFI's visitors are trapped in a beam of light, forced to face the filmic apparatus and thus the scene's artificiality. The piece draws to an end on this enormous oculus sending through night images that cannot be materialised.

Phantoms of Nabua is part of 'Primitive', a 'multi-platform' project co-commissioned by Haus der Kunst Munich, FACT Liverpool and Animate Project. It includes a large-scale installation--recently shown at the Musee d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris--another short, Letter to Uncle Boonmee, 2009, a publication (also presented at BFI) and the feature film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Life, 2010, which earned Weerasethakul the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival this year. This remarkable ensemble was triggered by a book, the story of a man who, while meditating, revisited his previous incarnations, given to Weerasethakul (popularly known as Joe) by the abbot of a temple in the filmmaker's native province of Khon Kaen, northern Thailand.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to Joe, this story has a particular significance for the area, a place severely affected by confrontations between governmental forces and communist farmers (or anyone suspected of communist tendencies) between the 1960s and 80s. The first gun battle broke out in 1965 in a rice field in Nabua. The repression was brutal, resulting in countless villagers fleeing to the jungle, and the local population is now eager to forget those troubled times. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.