This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Apichatpong Weerasethakul installation at New Museum is an enlightening experience

New Museum of Contemporary Art
235 Bowery at Prince St.
Wednesday – Sunday through July 3, $12 (Thursdays free 7:00 - 9:00)

Light and memory are the driving forces behind Thai visual artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s exhilarating “Primitive” installation, on view at the New Museum through July 3. Over his nearly decade-long career, Weerasethakul has made beautiful, slow-paced, bittersweet films that combine dreamlike imagery with nature and deep personal introspection. In such works as Blissfully Yours (2002), Tropical Malady (2004), Syndromes and a Century (2006), and his latest, the subtly elegant Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), Weerasethakul creates involving, atmospheric tales that often include elements of magical realism while blurring the lines between past, present, and future. “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive” takes a similar course through a collection of nine interrelated short films set in the rural farming village of Nabua, the site of political and social upheaval and military intervention during the 1960s and ’70s. The hypnotic works, some screened in their own room, others shown en masse in a central area, meld fact and fiction, fantasy and reality. In Making of the Spaceship, members of the community build a time-travel clubhouse; in A Dedicated Machine, the resulting spaceship continuously rises in the distant horizon. In I’m Still Breathing, teens run down a street and jump on a moving truck as a power-pop song by Modern Dog blasts away; in Phantoms of Nabua, a group of kids play around at night with a fireball, kicking it around until it reveals a projector behind a cloth screen. In An Evening Shoot, teens with a rifle pretend to shoot a friend walking through a grassy rice field, while in Nabua Song, a man pays tribute to Nabua’s military heroes. In the two-channel Primitive, a man relates a La Jetée–like story involving a legendary widow ghost, bathed in deep blacks and blurry reds. The slow, calm pace of the films are all interrupted by the crashing images and sounds of Nabua, as bolts of lightning rattle down from the sky, lighting up the village. According to Weerasethakul, “‘Primitive’ is about reincarnation and transformation. It’s a celebration of destructive force in nature and in us that burns in order to be reborn and mutate.” Take your time as you make your way around “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive,” an inventive, enlightening installation that offers myriad rewards, sometimes in the minutest of details, from one of the world’s most creative and innovative filmmakers. (Also on view at the New Museum is “Gustav Metzger: Historic Photographs,” David Medalla’s “Cloud Canyon no. 14,” and “Museum as Hub: The Incongruous Image Marcel Broodthaers and Liliana Porter.”)

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