Apichatpong Weerasethakul Biography

The winner of 2010 Palme d'Or, Apichatpong 'Joe' Weerasethakul is an internationally renowned Thai independent filmmaker and artist. He currently lives and works in Chiang Mai, a hub of folk art and crafts in Thailand. Born in 1970 in a Thai-Chinese middle-class family, Weerasethakul grew up in Khon Kaen, Isaan, a city in Northeast Thailand that is one of the most impoverished regions and a melting pot of Vietnamese and Cambodian cultures, where his parents practiced medicine.

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Weerasethakul's interest in moving images sprung from an early age, but in Thailand there was no film course, so in 1994 he attained his bachelor's degree in architecture—his second favorite discipline—at Khon Kaen University. In 1997, Weerasethakul completed his master's degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where he studied film.

After graduating, Weerasethakul returned to Thailand intending to start producing films; however, due to financial hardship, he only made video recordings. At the time, his friend Gridthiya Gaweewong founded Project 403 Gallery, so Weerasethakul got to debut his features in the contemporary art scene, demonstrating his aptitude for video installations. In the exhibition format, Weerasethakul presented his first long film, Mysterious Object at Noon (2000), where he randomly interviewed Thai citizens as well as countrymen from rural Bangkok, inviting them to tell stories. Structured in a linear fashion, the narrative oscillates between reality and fiction, demonstrating Weerasethakul's attempt to blur the line between documentary and drama.

Weerasethakul is not a filmmaker who restricts his cinematic practice to art; he sees intersections between art and filmmaking. In an interview with BOMB Magazine, he said: 'I am interested in time because I feel that time in installation and video, and then time in a film, are two different things. There are different rules. Film time is fixed time. It's linear. This has been said often. Whereas in a gallery, it's acknowledged that audiences are the ones who control time ...'.

Weerasethakul's work has featured in many group exhibitions around the world since 1998. Blissfully Yours, a 125-minute feature film about the forbidden love between a Thai woman and an illegal Burmese immigrant won him the Un Certain Regard programme prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Later, his long film Tropical Malady (2004) won a jury prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives established Weerasethakul as an internationally recognised independent filmmaker outside of the purview of Thailand's film industry.

In addition to the depiction of memory and the oscillation between documentation and fiction, Weerasethakul's films are political. The armed struggle of anti-communist forces spearheaded by the government of Thailand is still present in the rural lsaan—one of his filming locations—and with his father being a parliamentary representative of the Democratic Party, Weerasethakul's Thailand is not 'the Land of Smiles' but a social complex in which reality, history, and religion collide and clash.

Weerasethakul used to produce shorts before making long films. For instance, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (2009) was shot before Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. He confesses that these shorts are like 'sketch(es) of mood or investigation(s)'. Having investigated the occupation of Nabua by the government of Thailand during the 1970s anti-communist movement, Weerasethakul created a scenario about a spaceship in a gallery installation Primitive (2009), which later informed the creation of A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and then the feature film _Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Live_s. For Weerasethakul, the low budget and the uninhibited freedom of video installation enabled him to grasp what is possible in long films. In an interview with Ocula Magazine in 2014, the artist said that 'Film for me is something I reserve for features. I view it like an arrangement of memories.'

As a Thai independent filmmaker, Weerasethakul currently runs his production studio, Kick the Machine Films. He has moved his production out of Thailand due to the censorship there. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Silver Screen Award: Young Cinema Award, Singapore International Film Festival (2003); the Prix du Jury, Cannes Film Festival (2004); and the Chevalier de l'ordre des arts et des lettres (2008). His artworks are collected by Tate, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Centre Pompidou, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, M+, and others. Significant exhibitions include Primitive, New Museum, New York (2011); For Tomorrow For Tonight, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2011); and The Serenity of Madness, Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2019).

Penny Liu | Ocula | 2020

Apichatpong Weerasethakul
featured artworks

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A Conversation with the Sun (Installation) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul contemporary artwork moving image
Apichatpong Weerasethakul A Conversation with the Sun (Installation), 2022 2-channel video randomly projected, 3-channel sound on 7 speakers, motorized fabric
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Fire Garden by Apichatpong Weerasethakul contemporary artwork moving image
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Fire Garden, 2016 Single channel vieo, 1:53 mins
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Memoria - Jessica by Apichatpong Weerasethakul contemporary artwork photography
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Memoria - Jessica, 2022 Giclée print, 2 pieces
23.3 x 35 cm
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Memoria - Hernán by Apichatpong Weerasethakul contemporary artwork photography
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Memoria - Hernán, 2022 Giclée print, 2 pieces
23.3 x 35 cm
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Ashes by Apichatpong Weerasethakul contemporary artwork moving image
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ashes, 2012 Single channel video, 16:9, Dolby 5.1, color
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Self-Protraite (Shadows) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul contemporary artwork photography
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Self-Protraite (Shadows), 2016 Lambda C-type print, Fuji crystal velvet paper colour
73.3 x 130 cm
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Apichatpong Weerasethakul
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