Lazy Sunday

Travis Jeppesen on Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s SleepCinemaHotel

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, SleepCinemaHotel, 2018. Installation view, Postillion Convention Center WTC, Rotterdam.

APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL ONCE JOKED in an interview that he made films for his audience to fall asleep to. Well, perhaps it was more like a half-joke. The director’s SleepCinemaHotel (2018), one of the highlights of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, puts this idea into practice. Installed in the Zaal Staal of the city’s Postillion Convention Center WTC, the twenty beds on platforms of varying heights could be booked by guests for an overnight stay to take in the 120-hour-long film—featuring footage Apichatpong compiled from the archives of the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam as well as the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum, all accompanied by an ambient soundtrack—projected on a large circular screen at the end of the hall.

I wanted to experience SleepCinemaHotel in all its sensorial fullness, so I popped an Ambien and sat in bed writing until I was rolled up in the sonorous fabric the filmmaker wove.

Hi, Apichatpong. Can I really sleep inside your art?

Look at that fucking prairie. Green vista, the cows on it. The experience of falling. Actuality of it; asleep, I mean.

Who needs a sleep mask when there’s no chance of getting fucked in the night? Boats rowing by, a spectral secret.

Always the sounds of waves, water. The soundscape flowing. Sound detached from image, coming to reform that image. Seagulls mowing down the horizon. Sailboats go by windmills. Am I asleep yet? Big dose of knowledge fucks past our vacant circularity, the veins that dot the insides of movement and unknowing. Here, a landscape. The grasses: little hairs outside our knowing. All fits so well inside the circle. Like it was all already pre-contained in the tomorrow. Waves licking those rocks. How does it taste? I don’t know. I am a something. I don’t need this wind. More like a window. To let the vacancy, trellised, get all inspirated. Outtakes. The value of foreverness in the way it flows. Horse crossing the bridge makes this into another century. Where there is freedom in the rags.

Sudden shift to silence and below the microscope. Then back to pigeons. Alterance to what day is. Sea, again. A flood. My house underwater. I no longer have the freedom I need to live in my unknowing. A personal kaleidoscope that moves along the shore.

Triangle house underwater is like a pyramid with a whole lot of longing. Man awaking next to a virgin in the night.

It is all something, a part of this.

Fellow sleeper stands in front of circle; his bf snaps a photo. My faggotry has been temporarily destroyed by German bureaucracy. But I will get it back someday.

Now I’m on a boat that is floating up to the ceiling. But why is the sound gone? Is that the cue that I’m supposed to go to sleep. Well I’m not. ’Cos I’m not one of those people. Values and all.

Holes in the side of the pleasure ship. Screen turns from sepia to gray. Sometimes I want to smoke something that is less than myself. But I know it’s impossible. Why even air the grievance?

What if there was a way to inscribe this cinema into my veins. To keep writing until it, the entire world, disappears. Now two rats sleeping. Side by side, the rats make their own dreams. They don’t need the cinema to do that for them.

When we fall asleep at night, do we dream the same dream as rats? I miss my cat. Why couldn’t I bring my cat to the SleepCinemaHotel. Will have to make one for him at home.

Boys rowing. The night is a thing.

Here come those ships to take me away. I wish those ships were going somewhere I could go. So that I might know something. Little snakes seem to be massaging the rabbits––I have no idea why. The way a rabbit looks when a snake is killing it, it is almost a hug. It’s like each bed is a part of the boat, lined with rigging––but without the frigging.

Some fucking sharks in the water over there. I’m getting scared. Good thing I’m high up, they’ll eat the others first.

Flashes—bits—dream material— Stuff for you to compose your own.

Man lying there, or wait, what kind of tit is that? Does it matter?

It doesn’t matter what gender you are; it just matters that you don’t have one.

That’s the horniest landmass I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m not even drowning—

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, SleepCinemaHotel, 2018. Installation view, Postillion Convention Center WTC, Rotterdam.

And then I drowned. My alarm went off, bringing me right back into the dream salle, the same crashing waves and black-and-white flicker that I’d nodded off to. I put on my slippers and sauntered off to the reception lobby for the buffet breakfast, notebook tucked under my arm, recalling all those times, usually on repeated viewings, when I had pleasantly dozed to Apichatpong’s films—especially Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) and Tropical Malady (2004)—where my mindscape melded with the cinematic drift. There was no need to fear “missing out” on some essential plot point, since his cinema, far from being experimental or strange, is so much like life itself, which has no discernible plot, no overarching narrative. And then I thought back on all those moments when I drifted off to other works, when I was in the midst of reading a book I was particularly engrossed by, only, in my somnambulant state, to be suddenly struck with some awareness so profound that it jolted me awake and made me lunge for the notebook I always keep next to my bed. Perception need not be welded to our waking lives. Apichatpong knows this. Perhaps, as the SleepCinemaHotel goes so far as to suggest, our greatest insights come when we are totally divorced from consciousness.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s SleepCinemaHotel was shown from January 25 through January 30, 2018, as part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam that ran January 24 through February 4, 2018.