The term “animation” in cinema and video is generally used to refer to a kind of optical-illusion technique deriving from drawn or generated images rather than photography per se. But what cinema might be said to not be, in some way, “animated”? On the physical level, “moving pictures,” are just that — still photographs that, when handled in a certain way, convey an illusory image of movement, drawing the blood of kinesis from stasis’s stone. But the “animation” of cinema cuts far deeper, extending to a kind of “animism” in which inanimate objects are endowed — mutably, almost magically — with a spiritual essences of their own. In this curious way, the animism of film might be considered as a continuation of age-old beliefs and customs that are rooted simultaneously in nature and human consciousness; indeed, even the word “animation” traces a semantic arc that begins in the Indo-European word for air and extends from there to wind, breath, life, the mind and the soul. In other words, film’s pedigree is indeed a fine one.
An awareness of precisely this sort of filmic animism — at once physical and spiritual, rooted in personal and collective consciousness, of-the-moment and of-the-ages — is a hallmark of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s practice, whether in the cinematic production that has earned him international renown as one of contemporary film’s most innovative and accomplished auteurs, or in the diverse work presented within the realm of contemporary art, and thus forms part of his exhibition of new and recent work on view at the Galería Elba Benítez. Entitled Fiction, the exhibition features a selection of works in various formats — videos, photographs, prints and installation — that, through their multiplicity of approaches, offer a privileged view of the Thai artist’s lyrical and idiosyncratic artistic vision that is attuned to both the visible and invisible worlds that surround us.
Photophobia, a series of four drawing and collage based prints mark the entrance to the exhibition; based on images of a political massacre in the rural south of Thailand, they are also a springboard for the representations of ghosts and dreams that follow. Passing into the main gallery space, a suspended transparent screen; night-time, fluorescent lamps, buzzing and scuttling insects, a hand writing in a blank book, writing and attempting to record a dream. The image envelopes the viewer, the projection plays on all surfaces, insects, hand and lights slide across the floor; dream and reality collide. The title of the work? Fiction. Through this space to a sequence of five video diaries projected as silent miniatures. Three of them are dreams, dreams recounted and acted out by Jenjira and Sakda, colleagues in films that the artist has worked with for 20 years. These three windows of the subconscious are framed, on one side by a visual reflection upon a stone relief of Sarit Thanarat, godfather of a line of generals who have seized power in Thailand over the past eighty years and, on the other side by Home, a couple of happy minutes in Chang Mai in the company of the artist's cat. Although all works are silent, the author’s voice is so powerfully transmitted as to be virtually audible. It is all much like a dream itself.
(Anthony Reynolds and George Stolz)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand, 1970) has developed a lyrical and innovative cinematic technique that is rooted in the cultural traditions and social issues of his native Thailand and yet fully inscribed in the history of international avant-garde film. While fundamentally a story-teller, Apichatpong’s narratives are often fractured and non-linear, moving freely within a realm of memories, dreams, spirits and time-travel. In addition to his films, Apichatpong has developed a parallel practice as a visual artist, with installations, photographs, performances and mixed-media works having been exhibited at museums and contemporary art events around the world.
Apichatpong has had solo exhibitions at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (2018); the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) (Vilnius, 2018), the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) (Manila, 2017); Volksbühne (Berlin, 2017); the Art Institute of Chicago (2017); Tate Modern (London, 2016); Para Site (Hong Kong, 2016); the Top Museum (Tokyo, 2016); Asian Arts Theatre (Gwangju, 2015); HangarBicocca (Milan, 2013); the Stenersen Museum (Oslo, 2012); the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, 2011); the New Museum (New York, 2011); Haus der Kunst (Munich, 2009); and the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009).
His work has been included in numerous biennials and art events, including the 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013), where it received the Sharjah Biennial Prize; dOCUMENTA 13 (2012); the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial (2008); the 5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT5) (2006); and the Taipei Biennial 2004. His films have achieved widespread recognition and critical acclaim, and have twice been awarded prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, including the Palme d’Or in 2010. He has also been awarded the Fukuoka Prize (2013) and the Yanghyun Art Prize (2014.) His work forms part of collections at museums such as the Tate Modern (London), The Museum of Modern Art MoMA (New York), the Busan Museum of Art or the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
Fiction is organized in conjunction with the Anthony Reynolds Gallery of London.