- 24 September 2009 - 29 November 2009
Thai artist-provocateur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, known to many as simply 'Joe', makes films and videos that feature in art biennales and commercial film festivals alike. His works slip between genres and reject conventional narrative structures in favour of open, collaborative processes that highlight hidden histories and capture real human experience.
Originally trained in Architecture before completing a Masters in Fine Art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997, Apichatpong set up his own production company Kick The Machine to support artists and independent filmmakers in Thailand where he continues to work. His videos are deeply political, strewn with metaphors and a nod to Buddhist philosophy to which he very much subscribes.
For this exhibition Apichatpong draws together a new body of work that revisits catastrophic political events in Thailand. Primitive is set in Nabua, now a sleepy village in North East Thailand, which shields a violent history of clashes with the totalitarian government militia, who heavily occupied the region to curb communist insurgents between the 1960s and 1980s. These events have a strong resonance with the contemporary situation in Thailand, where freedom of speech remains restricted and security forces continue to engage in extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests.
Survival and extinction is a recurring feature of Apichatpong's work, and characters are endlessly reincarnated out of the artist's concern for things that are lost in the ongoing merging of cultures and species. His works are also vehicles that take us between different worlds, asking questions about the future and revealing a much bigger story than at first appears. By living in each location he films, Apichatpong becomes part of a community and is able to develop a deeper understanding of the history of a place and its people, which for him is fundamental. In creating an archive of experience gathered from many lifetimes, his spaceships and vehicles take us between worlds that give us time and space to re-dream the past and ask what can be learned to create a better future?
Commissioned by Haus der Kunst, Munich with FACT Liverpool, and Animate Projects. Produced by Illuminations Films, London with Kick the Machine, Bangkok. Images copyright of the artist.