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'Uncle Neaw' Goes To Venice


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'Uncle Neaw' goes to Venice

By Phatarawadee Phataranawik

The Nation

Internationally acclaimed Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija makes his debut as a filmmaker at the 68th Venice Film Festival with the documentary feature "Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours".

Rirkrit's film will show in Venice's Orizzonti (Horizons) secton for experimental works along with a second Thai film - a 13-minute short by young Thai filmmaker Wattanapume Laisuwanchai, "Passing Through the Night".

"Lung Naew" will compete for prizes with 24 other features, including Iranian-born, US-based filmmaker Amir Naderi's "Cut", American director Jonathan Demme's "I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad and the Beautiful" and Belgium's award-winning visual artist Nicolas Provost's "The Invader".

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" won the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival last year, will preside over the five-member jury for the Orizzonti prize for features, the special jury prize and one prize each for medium and short works.

"Lung Neaw" aims to realistically portray a day in the life of an ordinary man and raise the question about how most people, in everyday life, experience the passage of time.

Rirkrit's been documenting the life of Uncle Neaw, an elderly Chiang Mai native, since he moved to the Northern city six years ago. Shot with a 16mm camera in real time in the provincial countryside, the footage of Neaw has already been used in various mediums.

The old man will be familiar to folks who've seen singer Petch Osathanugrah's "Let's Talk About Love" video project in which several Thai artists and filmmakers participated.

Neaw again appeared in an interactive installation in a series of portaits printed on drafting paper in the critically acclaimed "Imagine Peace" exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in June 2010, which Rirkrit co-curated with Prof Apinan Poshyananda of the Culture Ministry. By flipping through the paper, viewers could view Neaw in a series of images, like a movie.

Last year, Rirkrit made a video installation of "Lung Neaw", an eight-hour, 19-minute loop that was shown at London's Pilar Corrias Gallery. The video was projected onto two huge screens, depicting portraits of the uncle scratching his face, picking his nose, combing his hair, fanning himself, dozing, eating, and, every so often, stepping out of the camera for a minute or two. The one activity in which he never engaged was work. Another screen depicted the gallery's director standing at the Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park with a slate with words messaging her that passage of time is all about work - surely criticising art world.

The 149-minute "Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours" is now is in the process of being edited with Mexican producer Cristian Manzutto of Estudio de Sonido in Mexico.

Rirkrit, a 2007 recipient of the Culture Ministry's Silpathorn Award for visual art, is famed for his "relational art" that bring everyday activities like eating, cooking and partying into the art gallery. He's known for serving up spicy curries to his exhibition visitors. His other honours include the Guggenheim Museum's Hugo Boss Prize in 2004, Benesse from Japan's Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucelia Artist Award, a Gordon Matta-Clark Grant from American and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award.

The Venice Film Festival runs from August 31 to September 10.


-- The Nation 2011-07-28

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