Friday, April 19, 2013

Apichatpong-a-rama: Mirage City Cinema at the Sharja Biennial

The Mirage City Cinema. Photo courtesy of Kick the Machine.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is taking part in Sharjah Biennial 11 (SB11), curating a film program in the Persian Gulf city with the open-air Mirage City Cinema.

Designed by Apichatpong in collaboration with architect Ole Scheeren, who created the floating cinema for Apichatpong's exclusive little Film On the Rocks Yao Noi festival last year, the Mirage City Cinema features programming by such folks as Steve Anker, dean of the School of Film and Video at CalArts, Apitchatpong's Film on the Rocks collaborator Tilda Swinton, Mehelli Modi, founder of Second Run DVD and Filipino filmmaker-poet Khavn De La Cruz.

Here's more about it from Ole Scheeren's blog:

Mirage City Cinema interweaves elements of Sharjah’s historical fabric with filmic scenarios to create an ethereal courtyard cinema experience. Inspiration is drawn from the historical traditions of Sharjah. Floor carpets, which were traditionally used for sleeping and relaxing, are scattered around the courtyard; this draws upon the common practice of using carpets to sleep on rooftops – a tradition now largely defunct due to the prevalence of air-conditioning units occupying roof space. Coral, which was formerly mixed with mud plaster to build the outer walls of houses and whose use as construction material is now forbidden, is recycled from decaying walls and used for the ground of the cinema space.

The fragmented shape of the cinematic space, and the choreography of projection and sound from different directions create a sense of disorientation and surrealism. The idea of sleep, dream and memory is central to the project.

In the words of Apichatpong Weerasethakul: "Mirage City Cinema reflects the idea of a place where a cinema of illusion arises and flourishes. A place of ghosts. I was interested in the moment when we free our minds and bodies of preconceived ideas, and allow ourselves to be possessed."

In Mirage City Cinema, the use of recycled matter and the drawing upon the ancient traditions of Sharjah connects the past with the present. Personal memories and stories are central. As Scheeren explains: "The idea was to create a city within a city, or rather, to evoke memories of the city’s past. Plaza, courtyard and rooftops all melt into a texture of shared stories of the city and the people who inhabit it."

The full program is at the festival website. The Sharja Biennial started on March 13 and runs until May 13.

Meanwhile, Apichatpong has been keep busy, hunting in Hong Kong last month for funds for his next feature project, Cemetery of Kings. Although it's been thought he's taking a break from filmmaking, he told The Hollywood Reporter:

"I’m not sure you could call it a break, really – even though that’s what some people have been saying. I’ve made short films, curated a film festival, judged a film festival, did some installations and have been busy raising two dogs – which is actually a lot of work."

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