Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apichatpong a finalist for Hugo Boss Prize; Primitive in Liverpool and Paris

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is among six finalists for the 2010 Hugo Boss Prize, according to the New York Times.

The US$100,000 award is given every two years by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and is named for the German men's wear company that sponsors it.

The other finalists are Cao Fei, a 31-year-old Beijing photographer and video artist; Hans-Peter Feldmann, a 68-year-old installation artist (last year at the International Center of Photography he filled a room with the framed front pages of 100 newspapers from September 12, 2001); Natascha Sadr Haghighian, a conceptual artist in Berlin whose works include video, performance, computer and sound pieces; Roman Ondak, 43, a Slovakian who stages performances and installations; and Walid Raad, 42, a Lebanese conceptual artist.

The winner will be announced in autumn 2010 and will be given a solo show in 2011 at New York's Guggenheim Museum.

Apichatpong's latest, the massive multi-platform installation Primitive is at FACT in Liverpool, where it opened as part of the Abandon Normal Devices festival that ran from August 23 to 27. It's so massive, that, in The Guardian's words, "it can't even be contained in cinema venues: it spills out to galleries and screens in the street."

The Guardian's Jessica Lack gets her head around the exhibition. Here's a snip:

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, Primitive makes 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.

Primitive continues at FACT until November 29.

Primitive is also in France at the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, where it opened on October 1 and runs until January 3, 2010.

One of the short films in the project, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, is touring the festival circuit independently. It was in Toronto last month and was in the New York Film Festival's Views from the Avant Garde program earlier this month. Now it's in Pusan and next month it finally comes back to Thailand as part of the 7th World Film Festival of Bangkok.

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