Few creators right now promise as much with their cinema as Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Bangkok, 1970). And promise is understood in its anthropological sense, not simply artistic, cinematographic or, if necessary, commercial. It’s not that Weerasethakul is a promising filmmaker (“I’m not young anymore,” he says), but that his cinema is essentially promising. It was the anthropologist Peter J. Wilson who maintained that man, as a hominid without specific skills, ended up specializing in everything in general. And of all his non-skills, the most sophisticated because it was inconcrete was that of making promises: that of imagining future possibilities and perhaps committing to them; that of thinking what is real, what is given, in another way. Even at the cost of lying. “I don’t believe in reality,” says the director at one point in the conversation and it seems that in the contextless forcefulness of the phrase there is an authentic declaration of principles. Reality is there to be done, not to be seen, much less visited.
Madrid Slaughterhouse believe what Weerasethakul says. He believes it because it is the obligation of every art center – and therefore of change – to do so, and because he shows it ‘Periphery of the night’ This is attested to. From now until next April, the exhibition (which is offered along with a retrospective of his work) presents 13 audiovisual pieces literally carved in memory, dream and time itself. It is an immersive, tactile and sleepwalking tour (all at the same time) originally created for the Institut Contemporain Villeurbanne that, at the same time, delves into the creative forms and mechanisms of the winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes with ‘Uncle Boonmee remembers his past lives‘ and the Grand Jury Prize with ‘Memory‘, reimagines and promises a world. Renewer of the new, memorizer of memories and demiurge of a fading universe, Weerasethakul is nothing but promise.
“The periphery is a reminder that we continue to divide everything: life and death; each country, all with its border; the dream of waking… My idea when I work with images, be it in cinema or in An installation like this is precisely to erase the limits; the limits between light and darkness, between the living and the non-living… For me, reality does not exist,” he insists, takes a second and continues: “Western thought tends to think that darkness or night are really nothing, just a void. But in Japanese culture, for example, the shadow is not just the shadow itself, but the space that surrounds it. Let’s say the light activates the darkness.”
Weerasethakul speaks from Chiang Mai, Thailand, via Zoom. He says that now he himself is filming, but not a movie. Or yes, a movie, but it is also something different. “I am doing many other things. When I pick up a camera I feel like a child. It is a very innocent feeling in which I do not judge what I do. I discard prejudices and let the images emerge as if they were dreams; dreams that, when They group together, they form a world of their own. Some of this is what will be seen in Matadero,” he says by way of explanation, which, in reality, is not such. “I have had insomnia problems for a long time. Now I feel better. Dreams are good news because they mean that I have slept. And I am very attentive to his logic and his rantings. Now I actually don’t watch movies because dreams are much more interesting. Dreaming is better than cinema. “Your own dream is your own cinema.”
In the latest list of the best films in history, ‘Tropical Malady’, one of his first works, appears in position 95. If it is mentioned, he accepts it, but it does not go beyond that. “I don’t think about it. I’m also not able to identify something like a style or a way of working. An act of creation has to be essentially free. I try to work without rules. When you make films, you have to adhere to a certain duration and the Narration has to go from one place to another in a linear manner. I imagine that the relevant thing is to put an end to that way of reasoning. There is a so-called binary perspective that is embedded in us. It is even an evolutionary trait that we apply to everything. That is what I was saying. before the concept of periphery. We have to make an effort to get out of it. A good part of the conflicts of race and identity start from there. We think in binary terms and should be able to accept the coexistence of everything. Living and dying are the same. “Everything is in the same area.”