Critics’ Picks

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Fireworks (Archives), 2014, HD video, color, sound, 6 minutes 40 seconds. Installation view.


Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Cao Guimarães

Eye Filmmuseum
IJpromenade 1
September 16–December 3, 2017

Ants are so great. Besides their obvious admirable qualities––such as their strength––they are unique in their ability to recognize the true value of human detritus. They take it—literally—and make it their own. Though few notice. Among the handful of people who do is Cao Guimarães, who cast a Brazilian species as his stars in a video made in collaboration with Rivane Neuenschwander, Quarta-feira de cinzas (Epilogue: Ash Wednesday), 2006. The film was shot the day after Carnival in Belo Horizonte, and there’s all this junk on the ground, confetti that’s been thrown. The human inhabitants don’t even have to clean it up! That’s what the ants are there for. We watch them band together, carrying the bits of litter over the dirt, through the foliage. Some team up, while the stronger ones go solo. You can easily become mesmerized watching this shit.

Mesmerized is a good word to evoke the effect of much of Guimarães’s work; Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s, too. Both filmmakers, known for directing their lenses in directions we seldom look, are the subject of a dual exhibition that satiates the needs of enchantment junkies ready to submit to the lull of wonder contained in this exquisite Delugan Meissl–designed venue on Amsterdam’s north bank. Weerasethakul tends to focus on northeastern Thailand, and in his works here he zeroes in on a small town called Nabua, near the border with Laos. In the video installation Primitive, 2009, some teenagers build a spaceship, kick a soccer ball that’s on fire, and tell one another stories of their fathers at war. In another room, displaying the video Fireworks (Archives), 2014, on a transparent glass screen dividing the area, pyrotechnics crackle and pop their way across and through the partition, illuminating Buddhist statuary in a night-darkened monastic retreat.

Weerasethakul’s installations are as sprawling in their epic dimensionality as his feature films are in their endlessly wandering plots. While it is true that they have been shown in many different settings (Primitive, in particular), none has been as efficient and welcoming as this one, with the acoustics, projection, sound, and arrangement of the screens and seating just right, and in concert with the works of a filmmaker equally fearless and unexpected in his cartography.