Abstract:Commentary on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's work to date leaves much to be desired. At best, it affords a survey of his feature filmography in terms of Western art cinema aesthetics, and sometimes of a ‘New Asian Cinema’; at worst, it descends into exoticism. Despite his experimental leanings, and constant appearance in galleries and biennials, engagements from the side of contemporary art have done little to deepen the ahistorical contemplation of his work. This article seeks to contextualise Apichatpong's practice with reference to Thai political and cultural histories, as well as some touchstones in Western modernism. Taking as a starting point his first feature-length film (Mysterious Object at Noon, 2000), the author begins by establishing an ethno-political background for his practice, and follows this with two detours: the first, art historical, explores Apichatpong's putative alignment with a certain Surrealism; the second is psycho-geographic, and brings into relief a poetics of itinerancy in his work. At issue is the question of the moving image's amplitude as a social historical channel; and of what critical purchase an ‘itinerant cinema’ may have on Thailand's fractious political present.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2011