Joe Weerasethakul, To be in between the frontiers of language

Fluxus: Apichatpong Weerasethakul is centered on the exhibition of the artist's last work: Mekong Hotel (2012). The film, which demanded the creation of a non-conventional exhibition room, presents characters situated between the real and the phantasmagoric realm in the rooms of an empty hotel at the border of the Mekong River. The director himself is also present in the movie as he invests in the oral accounts of some local characters, as well as when he composes music with Chai Bhatana, in order to create a kind of metalinguistic essay that follows the course of the river-film.

Our curatorial proposal is to exhibit, along with Mekong Hotel, seven of the artist's short films, which are cenographically displayed on large screens distributed in the same space. They are: Cactus River (2012), Ashes (2012), A Letter To Uncle Boonmee (2009), Vampire (2008), Luminous People (2007), Emerald (2007), and The Anthem (2006). When seen in such a group, this filmic collection seems to shed even more light on beauty and on the concepts of his work. They are all films that generate an intense dialogue with his work as a whole and particularly with Mekong Hotel.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul recreates boundaries between fiction and documentary, realism and allegory, memory and present... Our main intention is to give the visitor the opportunity to watch the eight films at the same time and, by doing that, to mentally assemble meanings, and, consequently, surrender to the following proposition: to hear, to see, to think, and, above all, to accept the work of art as an unprecedented object of observation.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's work is basically centered on issues related to the force of nature as sovereign over human beings (the river, the dense forest, the animals, the living beings and the dead) – which stems from the strong Buddhist tradition of his country – as well as on the issues related to ghostly supernatural forces (the animist, the incorporated spirit, the mediumistic, the half-man and half animal creature). Throughout his process of creation, the artist investigates the strong oral culture of Thailand and exposes some of its narratives by "making the characters talk". The roles of such characters are often played by non-professionals or by those who have been performing for him since the beginning of his career, as, for instance, the actress Jenjira Pongpas, who starred in his first and last long features, Blissfully Yours (2002) and Mekong Hotel, as well as in his short feature entitled Cactus River (2012). He also searches subjects that are still considered taboo, such as the homosexual affection; the reliving of lives as an element that can either proof or disproof religion; and the presence, almost unknown to us, of the military in northern Thailand, on the border of Laos.

In terms of cinematic enunciation, Apichatpong Weerasethakul juxtaposes layers of language with a touch of sophistication to this metaphysical purity, by inserting, for example, a non-linear sonority in a kind of a game that is common in his films: "I listen to what I don't see and see what I don't listen to". He also proposes extremely long sequences, with or without sound effects, in a kind of hypnotic observation game that generates a feeling of day dreaming. And subtly deconstructs the time of the narrative structure by producing new fields of meaning. In order to watch his movies, the viewers must have a particular diverted attention: they must "be" tuned and, at the same time, "be at a loss".

Francesca Azzi


Apichatpong Weerasethakul has come to be recognised as one of the most original voices in cinema today. His six feature films, short films and installations have won him widespread international recognition and numerous festival prizes, culminating in the winning of the Cannes Palme d'Or in 2010 with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. His previous feature Syndromes and a Century (2006) was recognised as the best film of the last decade by Toronto International Film Festival's Cinematheque, as voted by more than sixty international film historians, archivists, curators, and programmers.

Apichatpong has also mounted exhibitions and installations in many countries since 1998. His installations have included the multi-screen project Primitive (2009), which has been acquired for major museum collections and was presented at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris and The New Museum, New York among others. He has presented a major installation for the 2012 Kassel Documenta. His most recent projects include on-line films for Mubi (Ashes, 2012) and for the Walker Art Center in the USA (Three Wonders of the World, 2012).



Thailand/UK | 2012 | 61 min.

In the north-east of Thailand, the Mekong Hotel stands near the Mekong River, which marks the border between Thailand and Laos. In the bedrooms and terraces, Apichatpong held a rehearsal with his crew for a movie that he wrote years ago called Ecstasy Garden. Shifting between fact and fiction, the movie expresses the bonds between a vampire-like mother and her daughter, young lovers and the river, that flows like the sound of the music of Chai Bhatana. Shot in the midst of the heavy floods that have affected the country in 2011 the film weaves in layers of demolition, politics, and a drifting dream of the future.


Thailand | 2012 | 20 min.
Courtesy of the Mubi

Ashes contemplates love, pleasure, and the destruction of memory. The surroundings of everyday life are shared with extreme intimacy. For Apichatpong, Thailand, while full of beauty, is slowly collapsing into darkness.


Thailand/USA | 2012 | 10 min.
Courtesy of the Walker Art Center

"Since she appeared in my film in 2009, Jenjira Pongpas has changed her name. Like many Thais, she is convinced that the new name will bring her good luck. So Jenjira has become Nach, which means water. Not long after, she was drifting online and encountered a retired soldier, Frank, from Cuba, New Mexico, USA. A few months later they got married and she has officially become Mrs. Nach Widner. The newlyweds found a house near the Mekong River where Nach had grown up. She spends most of her day crocheting baby socks for sale, while he enjoys gardening and watching television (Sometimes without the sound because most of the programs are in Thai). Cactus River is a diary of the time I visited the couple - of the various temperaments of the water and the wind. The flow of the two rivers - Nach and the Mekong, activates my memories of the place where I shot several films. Over many years, this woman whose name was once Jenjira has introduced me to this river, her life, its history, and to her belief about its imminent future. She is certain that soon there will be no water in the river due to the upstream constructions of dams in China and Laos. I noticed too, that Jenjira was no more." - Apichatpong Weerasethakul


Thailand/UK/Germany | 2009 | 18 min.

"A few years ago I visited a temple near my home and a monk there gave me a little book called “A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” In it, the monk wrote about Boonmee, who could recall his multiple lives in the cities of the northeast. In 2008, I wrote a screenplay inspired by the reincarnation of Boonmee, and started to travel in the region in search of his surviving offspring and relatives. I met his two sons who provided accounts of their father. In Nabua in December 2008, I located several houses that I thought would be suitable as Uncle Boonmee’s house in the proposed feature film. This short film is a personal letter describing my Nabua to Uncle Boonmee. The film is comprised of shots of the houses’ interiors in the evening. They are all deserted except one house with a group of young soldiers, played by some teens of Nabua. Two of them impersonate me by narrating the film." - Apichatpong Weerasethakul


Thailand/France | 2008 | 19 min.

Somewhere along the border of Thailand and Burma lives a creature called Nok Phii (Ghost Bird). Or there used to live one. If exists, apart from the Vampire Finch of the Galapagos Islands, Nok Phii would be the only species of bird that feeds on other animals’ blood. In some stories, it even attacks human. In 2007, a sighting of a male and female Nok Phii in a remote mountain was reported by the villagers in the north of Thailand. This supposedly small with large eyes bird has never been captured, dead or alive. There are no remains. Without concrete evidence, this rare bird might only be an imaginary animal associated with alluring danger and mythical aura.


Thailand/Japan | 2007 | 11 min.

In The Pilgrim Kamanita, a Buddhist novel written in 1906 by the Danish writer Karl Gjellerup, the protagonists are reborn as two stars and take centuries to recite their stories to each other, until they no longer exist. Morakot is a derelict and defunct hotel in the heart of Bangkok that opened its doors in the 1980's: a time when Thailand shifted gears into accelerated economic industrialization. Later, when the East Asian financial crisis struck in 1997, these reveries collapsed. Like Kamanita, the Morakot is a star burdened with (or fueled by) memories. Apichatpong collaborated with his three actors, who recounted their dreams, hometown life, bad moments, and love poems, to re-supply the hotel with new memories.


Thailand/Portugal | 2007 | 15 min.

A group of people is in a boat traveling along Mekong River that stretches along the Thai-Laos border. They are running against the wind, anticipating a farewell. In the middle of the river, the lady head of the family casts the ashes off into the stream. The white dust merges with the muddy water. The boat makes a u-turn at the bridge that links two countries. The passengers are tired and start to drift off into their own world. The film disintegrates. The crew and the cast wander off in the river of simulation. The border links the worlds of the dead and of the living. The memory of an anonymous dead father lingers. The boat still moves on as the dusk arrives.


Thailand | 2006 | 5 min.

The purpose is to honour the King. It is one of the rituals imbedded in Thai society to give a blessing to something or someone before certain ceremonies. The Anthem presents a 'Cinema Anthem' that praises and blesses the approaching feature for each screening. This audio-visual purification process is performed by three old ladies. They also channel energy to the audience in order to give them a clear mind.


nov 11th 2013 to
feb 09th 2014
tue/sun, 11AM - 8PM
R. Dois de dezembro, 63


jul 3rd - sep 1st 2013
tue/sat, 11AM - 9PM
sun, 11AM - 7PM
Av. Afonso Pena, 4001


Idealization and Production
Zeta Filmes

Francesca Azzi

Valdy Lopes Jn.

Museography Assistant
Irma Zica

Daniella Azzi
Eduardo Garreto Cerqueira

Production Assistant
Elida Silpe

Opa! Cenografia e Montagem

Audio and Video Equipment
On Projeções
Visual Identity, Graphic Design, Signage and Website
Voltz Design

Creative Directors and Graphic Production
Alessandra Maria Soares
Cláudio Santos

Website (programming)
Redemunho Web Design

Alexandre C. Motta

Translation and English Version
Alcione Silveira

Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Idealization and Production