Critics’ Picks

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Power Boy (Evening), 2011, Epson print on paper, 59 x 89 1/2".

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Power Boy (Evening), 2011, Epson print on paper, 59 x 89 1/2".

Beijing

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

UCCA Center for Contemporary Art | UCCA尤伦斯当代艺术中心
798 Art Zone, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
November 26, 2011–February 10, 2012

British critic Jonathan Romney once wrote in The Independent, “We shouldn’t mistake Apichatpong [Weerasethakul]’s true nature as a hyper-sophisticated modernist with complex, innovative ideas about time and narrative,” but he didn’t elaborate on what this actually means, and he concluded his article by reminding us of the magical and bewitching aspects of the lauded artist’s works. It’s arguable that the enthralling qualities of Weerasethakul’s films and installations have generated enough discourse that the possibilities for description have been exhausted. However, Weerasethakul’s compelling aesthetics can challenge any sustained discussion of the contextual and historical significance of his oeuvre.

For Tomorrow for Tonight (all works 2011) is a largely enigmatic and often humorous take on Weerasethakul’s concerns with superstition and animism in Thailand. Consisting of three video projections, a monitor, and a series of photographs, these beautifully composed works depict a woman (played by Jenjira Pongpas) in a dilapidated interior spooked by otherworldly presences, the same woman in repose, a mud-splattered man, and a guy emanating colored light amid a nighttime landscape. On the small monitor plays the short video Workstation, in which the resigned woman, who also appears to be in pain, is attached to an electronic device and attended to by two men working on a metal apparatus embedded in her leg. Her lips move and she gesticulates but there is no sound. This scenario’s offhand realism oddly breaks the spell that the other works cast, bringing us back to the real world of pain or injury.

The verisimilitude of Workstation contrasts with the supernatural qualities of the other pieces, and viewing these two bodies of work together helps Weerasethakul’s methods and references come to the fore: digital manipulation, the shabbiness of Pongpas’s home, the Caravaggesque lighting of her portraits, and the subdued homoeroticism. Here we might begin to wonder less about the ways we experience Weerasethakul’s works, and more about the decisions he makes as an artist, and the reasons behind those choices.