The Thai artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul presents Primitive, a project he started in 2009 and which is being shown in its entirety in a display specially designed for the spaces of HangarBicocca. In the almost total darkness of the Shed, the viewer is plunged into a magical, mysterious atmosphere conjured up by images that alternate light and dark, video clips and documentaries, narrative and absolute silence, reality and fiction, past and future.
The director’s story starts out from Nabua, a village in the north of Thailand which was the target of tragic repression and attacks by the Thai army from the 1960s to the 1980s. Here its history is re-examined and re-imagined, involving the young people of the place – descendants of the erstwhile dissidents – with whom the artist lived and worked for some months in the summer of 2008. The climax of this shared experience is the creation of a spaceship – a jointly made work of art in which the exuberance of the kids is combined with the artist’s visionary ideas. The term Primitive thus has a twofold meaning: on the one hand the primeval desire of humans to return to their origins and, on the other, with greater political overtones, the primitive state in which peoples are forced to live by governments and the establishment.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s works have no linear narrative structure but rather appear as documentaries that constantly slip into dream-world stories, shifting from long, detailed shots of a place or character to situations in a world of the surreal, like the abrupt manifestation of a ghost. These unexpected interactions partly reflect the lifestyle of rural Thailand, which is still based on ancient animistic beliefs, legends and superstitions, and on the lack of any clear-cut demarcation between the real and the spiritual world.