Where’s the Faith?

“Fiction:  Apichatpong Weerasethakul”

Future Perfect (47 Malan Road, (Gillman Barracks) #01-22, Singapore) Jan 25 — Feb 24, 2013

Who is Apichatpong Weerasethakul? Film buffs will perhaps be more familiar with the Thai film maker’s work than are the Art Crowd. One might see the staging of his first solo exhibition at Future Perfect in the glitzy new Gillman Barracks complex as a reflection of conflicting aspirations — between an international and a strictly “Asian” impetus.

“Faith” has enabled Weerasethakul (aka Joe – a name he chose for simplicity) to side-step film into the realm of art exhibitions. This two-channel video was commissioned in 2006 by the Liverpool Biennale, but has since been seen chez Leo Xu Projects in Shanghai (as part of the group exhibition “Boy: A Contemporary Portrait” in early 2012); now, it’s in Singapore.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Power Boy,” Giclée Print, 2250 mm x 1500 mm, 2011, Image courtesy of the artist and Future Perfect.

The video is one of few works on show in the blacked out space; the others (selected stills and Giclée prints) are something of a supporting cast. Nonetheless, it was a risk for Future Perfect to choose video for an opening night where hundreds of guests were milling round, losing momentum and concentration (in all probability) as they went from show to show, drinks in hand and stalled by the buffet. But it seems to have paid off, as there was much chatter on the terrace outside about “the spaceman video.”

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “FAITH (Video Still),” 2-channel digital video installation, 2006, Image courtesy of the artist and Future Perfect.

“Faith” is a flowing 11.05-minute composition of shots of an astronaut encased in an empty, blanched environment; he floats, sits motionless, gazes at a distant, wide sun beyond . . . We see down a dim corridor in his craft, with broad, lab-like tubing all underpinned by a low, ominous sound-scape that builds towards a climax but which never arrives. It is a strangely compelling portrait — mesmeric, open-ended and existential. One is reminded of the first astronauts’ difficulty in adjusting to normal life after coming back down to Earth.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Haunted Houses (Video Still),” Single-channel digital video, 2001, Image courtesy of the artist and Future Perfect. 

Gazing blankly, surrounded by dumb machinery, confusing names and sights in a floating place far from the sensible world; weightless and with a feeling of crescendo but no climax? Joe calls “Faith” “A tender portrait of lost love and transformation. Surrounded by perpetual change and the fear of new memories replacing old, a man dreams of an eternal place.”

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Emerald (Ruined),” Giclée Diasec Print, 1200 mm x 795.3 mm, 2008, Image courtesy of the artist and Future Perfect.

Where does art come from, what is art, where is art going? (sic). Amidst a fickle international-slash-regional art scene and with 2013 fair-fever underway, perhaps “Faith” is an apt requiem for unclouded aesthetics, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *