Apichatpong Weerasethakul makes the ghosts dance in Villeurbanne

While his eighth feature film Memoria, after winning over the jury of the last Cannes Film Festival, soon arriving in theaters, Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be the subject of a remarkable exhibition until November 28 at the IAC in Villeurbanne. Far from an exhaustive filmography, this one immerses us in the rich and poetic universe of the Thai filmmaker through numerous videos and short films never unveiled, populated by reassuring shadows, divine animals and dazzling stars. .. between sleep and wakefulness.

  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Power Boy (Villeurbanne)” (2021) © Kick the Machine

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  • View of the exhibition “Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Periphery of the Night”, from July 2 to November 28, 2021 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne © Studio Hans Wilschut

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  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Invisibility” (2016) © Kick the Machine

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  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Blue” (2018) © Kick the Machine

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  • View of the exhibition “Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Periphery of the Night”, from July 2 to November 28, 2021 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne © Studio Hans Wilschut

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  • View of the exhibition “Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Periphery of the Night”, from July 2 to November 28, 2021 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne © Studio Hans Wilschut

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  • View of the exhibition “Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Periphery of the Night”, from July 2 to November 28, 2021 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne © Studio Hans Wilschut

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  • View of the exhibition “Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Periphery of the Night”, from July 2 to November 28, 2021 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne © Studio Hans Wilschut

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Film retrospective, screening or immersive exhibition? It’s hard to know what you will discover when you walk through the door of the Apichatpong Weerasethakul exhibition at the IAC in Villeurbanne. The immense image that will dress the facade of the art center until the end of autumn could give a first clue: back to a twilight bluish sky, the backlit silhouette of a young man lights up. colorful garlands he wears on his chest. In the same way that this individual seems to unveil, like a celestial vault strewn with stars, the richness of the world that resides in him, the Thai filmmaker invites the public to explore the many corners of his own imagination. Known and celebrated for three decades for its feature films such as Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady Where Uncle Boonmee, the one who remembers his past lives (Palme d’Or in 2010), the 50-year-old has chosen here to take the opposite view of expectations by presenting many creations until then remained in the shadows. Photographs, installations and experimental videos – sometimes of very short duration – make up a stroll through his contemplative visual poetry, nourished as much by the political and spiritualist memory of his country (in which his projects are almost always filmed) as by the report of the human to nature, love, disease and death. Here, we will come across fleeting animals, shooting shadows, fireballs, and above all many sleepy faces and languid bodies which – as the title of the event indicates – populate the “periphery of the night”.

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Blue” (2018) © Kick the Machine

Curled up in a corner of a glowing wall, the first filmed protagonists of the exhibition fall asleep with their backs to the visitor : bathed in this fiery light, these teenagers from the Thai village of Nabua, on the border of Laos, carry with them the memory of a region crossed by conflicts between the government and the population and protect themselves from it in a fictitious shelter. Their drowsiness responds to the insomnia of an older woman a few rooms away. In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by trompe-l’oeil curtains and tropical plants, her bed becomes the hearth of her doubts and her loneliness, little by little burned by a flame that she welcomes with serenity. Like a sandman, Apichatpong Weerasethakul controls sleep, wakefulness and their intermediate moments, conducive to deep reflection, making night the real backdrop for his exhibition. For the living, it is the cradle of creativity, dreams and struggle: in the film Ashes (2012), the fleeting spectacle of exploding electricity poles and moving individuals during a demonstration reflects the simultaneous energy of celebration and revolt. But it is also the silent kingdom of the dead, whose spirits awaken and revive the places once trodden by their footsteps. Filmed at night by the filmmaker, a park of stone sculptures reveals through flashes of flashes and fireworks the silhouettes of howling dogs and the faces of grimacing skeletons, until then motionless and invisible in the twilight.

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “The Palace (still)” (2007) © Kick the Machine

In a room of the art center, the silhouettes of a soldier and a woman in the hospital answer each other in diptych like Chinese shadows. In another, the hand that fills the pages of a notebook and the neon lights assailed by moths appear on a suspended screen, whose video projector diffuses the image to the ground. Sometimes, the spectator’s body passing in front of the light mingles with those of these invisible actors, sometimes, it in turn becomes a projection support. Apichatpong Weerasethakul takes up an ambitious challenge here: to continue to captivate his audience by moving from cinemas to exhibition halls. Prolific, the filmmaker succeeds in this tour de force by playing with the supports – slides, circular screens, double screens, small and large formats – and by preferring to exhibit, rather than his feature films, experiments and very short films in order to immerse themselves in them. its moving public. It will be necessary to arrive at half of the course to discover, in one of his videos, a mise en abyme of the cinema itself. Deep in a garden in the middle of the night, a film has just been shown on a white screen, which a group of young men end up destroying little by little by kicking a flaming soccer ball. Real or fiction? It does not matter: the image is consumed in front of the public’s eyes to give way to life.

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Fireworks (Archives)” (2014) © Kick the Machine

If Apichatpong Weerasethakul makes ghosts speak, those whom the Thai filmmaker summons throughout the exhibition are not at all threatening. Hazy, dazzling or incandescent, they intervene like reassuring presences, encouraging to move as in a waking dream: evanescent red dogs projected on the walls indicate the way, the head of a monkey frozen in stone reassures by its divine aura, while the dead turn into stars to extinguish the fear of darkness. To an often talkative contemporary cinema, the artist opposes a silent exhibition populated by these evanescent presences, where silence and the sensory triumph. Unveiled this summer in Cannes, his new feature film Memoria is evoked by an original diptych where Tilda Swinton, its headliner, also appears ghostly, lying on a bed in a bluish atmosphere. Motionless and insomniac, the filmmaker’s favorite actress sees the sun rise while views of a city at dawn or of dozing individuals follow one another to her right, like the images that parade in her mind worked by research of a mysterious memory. Finally, as a matter of course, the exhibition lowers its curtain as close as possible to the sleeping face of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s former lover, tenfold on three vertical screens. So, the lingering darkness of the previous films gives way to the luminous imprint of a fallen love, seized at its dawn by the intimate lens of a smartphone. Without a word, the artist manages to convince: cinema is indeed a means of capturing one’s own ghosts. After all, that long night may well have, in turn, turned the viewer into a specter.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Periphery of the Night”, until November 28 at IAC, Villeurbanne.

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Phantoms of Nabua” (2018) © Kick the Machine

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul makes the ghosts dance in Villeurbanne