Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Liverpool's FACT previews Primitive

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's multi-screen video installation Primitive has opened at Haus der Kunst in Munich, where it will run until May 17. The exhibit then moves to the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool, where it runs from September 25 to November 29.

Ahead of Primitive's arrival in Liverpool, representatives from FACT went to the premiere in Munich to have a look at what they'll be getting.

From the FACT blog:

Primitive is without a doubt Apichatpong’s most political work so far. In fact many people get lost in Apichatpong’s sublime and mysterious images and fail to spot the more serious messages that often lurk underneath. Death, reincarnation, ghosts and soldiers feature in his work and Primitive is no exception. He made this work in Nabua, North East Thailand, which has a violent history of clashes between farmer communists and a totalitarian government-driven military who heavily occupied the region from the 1960s to the 1980s. People accused of being communists were brutally tortured, raped, murdered and driven from their homes, which has echoes with the current political turmoil in Thailand where freedom of speech is still limited, at a time where the Human Rights Watch World Report (published just this January '09) declares that “Thai security forces still faced little or no consequences for extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests of suspected insurgents” …and that… “after a sharp decline in 2007, new cases of enforced disappearances emerged again in 2008” (2009 Human Rights Watch Report (Events of 2008), published by the Human Rights Watch, January 2009, United States of America).

Primitive is about reimagining Nabua, a place where memories and ideologies have been extinguished. Apichatpong went to live in the village for three months during which time he asked local boys, the direct descendents of the farmer communists, to make new dreams in building a spaceship together in the ricefields. The video installation shows the boys constructing the spaceship on one screen, while they hang out and sleep inside the spaceship on another screen, awashed with a red glow (red being a highly significant colour for the artist that carries an abundance of associations). Narration describes a time machine, and in a way the spaceship acts as a time machine as it takes us between remembering the past and imagining the future of this new generation. On another screen you can see the young men dressed as soldiers, practicing firing a gun out of a window which shoots a passing boy in the fields, while on another screen explosions that hit the ground like lightening strikes, and a still portrait of a soldier set to the soundtrack of a boy playing a guitar and singing a song that almost had me in tears. Apichatpong has constructed a seating area at Haus der Kunst in the middle of the installation, covered in red carpet and strewn with cushions. This will be reconfigured at FACT (he wants to build a red mountain in the middle of the gallery – so watch this space!)

As part of Primitive, the short film Phantoms of Nabua is online at the Animate Projects website, where it will remain for anyone and everyone to watch over and over as many times as they like for as long as they can stay connected to the Internet -- the work was commissioned by Animate Projects, and they plan to keep Phantoms running online.

(Via the FACT blog)


  1. Thanks for providing a link to Phantoms of Nabua. I have just watched it and absolutely loved it. As wonderfully beguiling and entrancing as anything Apichatpong has done. I really hope the Primitive exhibition will make it to London or I might just have to plan a trip to Liverpool..I can't miss this one!

  2. Well, as someone who flew all the way to Pittsburgh to see an Apichatpong installation, if I lived in London, I'd hopefully be Merseyside as quickly as possible.


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