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Apichatpong Weerasethakul / MATRIX 247 (February 15—April 21, 2013)
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Berkeley, CA, January 25, 2013— The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) proudly presents Apichatpong Weerasethakul / MATRIX 247, on view February 15 through April 21, 2013. The exhibition features the Thai artist and filmmaker’s 2007 installation Morakot (Emerald), a single-channel video shot in an abandoned Bangkok hotel. Best known for his award-winning feature-length films, Weerasthekul uses the spatial qualities of the gallery to create a transformative environment, breathing life back into the abandoned hotel.
In the 1980s, the Morakot Hotel served as a haven for Cambodian refugees fleeing the Vietnamese invasion. After the Thai economy collapsed in the late 1990s the building was vacated and has stood empty ever since. Weerasethakul’s camera slowly moves through the Morakot’s ghostly corridors and rooms, capturing the natural light as it streams through the windows and illuminates the drifting dust, progressively adding more digitized particles to create a mesmerizing constellation.
In the Morakot installation, a low-hanging green lamp illuminates the space between the gallery floor and the edge of the screen, creating a focal point and a meditative portal into the space of the single-channel video. Three ghostly voices speaking in Thai, identified as Tong, Goh, and Jen, laugh together and speak of faraway places where lovers await their return—places punctuated by violence, but also by the croaking of frogs and the strains of country music. Like many of Weerasethakul’s works, Morakot is suspended between past and present, reality and fantasy, natural and manmade. The artist’s initial inspiration for Morakot was the experimental Buddhist novel about death and rebirth, The Pilgrim Kamanita (1906) by Danish author Karl Gjellerup. In the book, the Kamanita’s protagonists, reborn as stars, tell one another tales over centuries until they reach nirvana. However, rather than illustrating the novel directly, Weerasethakul required his crew and cast of nonprofessional actors to infuse the script with their own village legends and personal stories.
Morakot is haunted by the same fugitive memories of violence and exile that have given shape to over a decade of Weerasethakul’s films. “I dreamt of Kanchanaburi,” Tong recalls, “The soldiers dragged me out of bed and let the dogs chase us. All I could see were small green lights in the distance. So I floated that way. Turns out they were squid boats.” With Morakot, Weerasethakul creates a vehicle for communicating unconventional experiences and unofficial views, exhuming the stories of political dissidence, poverty, sexual difference, and sickness that are suppressed in sanctioned accounts of contemporary Thailand.
In addition to the gallery installation, BAM/PFA will host related screenings of the artist’s newest feature Mekong Hotel (2012) and also Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, at the PFA Theater in March.
Related Film Programs
Apichatpong Weersethakul (Thailand, 2012)
Saturday, March 16; 4:15 p.m.
Seemingly a portrait of a hotel overlooking the Mekong River where it borders Laos, Weersethakul's latest work is really a gentle, off-center fable of ghostly reincarnation and unerring love, staged during a time when northern Thailand suffered heavy flooding. Working with a familiar cast of recurring actors, Mekong Hotel unfolds like a mesmerizing paean to folk legend set against nature in upheaval. Weersethakul blends fact and fiction, merging man-eating demons and the lazy life of the river in his Thai brand of magical realism. (56 mins, In Thai with English subtitles, Color, Digital). Programmed as part of CAAMFest 2013 (formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival).
PFA Theater: 2527 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand, 2010)
Tuesday, March 19; 7 p.m.
(Loong Boonmee raleuk chat). Continuing his miraculous invention of a dark pastoral, Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, melds the last dying encounters of a farmer and a gorgeously rendered landscape enlivened by the presence of ghostly apparitions. A veranda, perched by an intruding forest, becomes the astral stage for Boonmee’s transmigrational journey, accompanied by his dead wife, an ectoplasmic entity, and his long-lost son, now manifested as a “monkey ghost.” Weerasethakul’s humble genius is his beguiling ability to allow the primordial and the modern to coexist. This is not magical realism, but realistic magic. Written by Weersethakul, based on the writings of Phra Sripariyattiweti. Photographed by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. With Thanapat Saisaymar, Jenjira Pongpas, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Natthakarn Aphaiwonk. (113 mins, In Thai with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Strand Releasing)
PFA Theater: 2527 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
MATRIX 247 is organized by Assistant Curator Dena Beard. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.
About the Artist
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (born 1970) has directed several features and dozens of short films, including Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, winner of the 2010 Palme d’Or prize at Cannes; Tropical Malady, winner of a 2004 Cannes jury prize; and Syndromes and a Century (2006), which premiered at the 63rd Venice Film Festival. Trained as a visual artist at the Art Institute of Chicago, Weerasethakul returned to his native Thailand in 1999. His installation projects have been featured at the Sculpture Center and New Museum in New York and REDCAT in Los Angeles and in the 2001 Istanbul Biennial, the 55th Carnegie International, and, most recently, at Documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany.
Founded in 1963, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue and among the largest university art museums in terms of size and audience in the United States. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAM/PFA is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national and global discourse on art and ideas. BAM/PFA’s mission is “to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.”
BAM/PFA presents approximately fifteen art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of over 16,000 works of art includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and video art. Its film archive of over 14,000 films and videos includes the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, Hollywood classics, and silent film, as well hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film, many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.
Location: 2626 Bancroft Way, just below College Avenue across from the UC Berkeley campus.
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Information: 24-hour recorded message (510) 642-0808; fax (510) 642-4889; TDD (510) 642-8734.