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Thai filmmaker bags UK contemporary art prize, Artes Mundi

Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul of Thailand received a sum of £40,000 at a ceremony held at the National Museum Cardiff.

by Sukanya Garg Jul 11, 2019

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul was named the winner of UK’s largest prize for international contemporary art, the Artes Mundi 8. The Palme d'Or winning artist, best known for his feature-length films, was selected from a shortlist that included Trevor Paglen, Bouchra Khalili, Otobong Nkanga and Anna Boghiguian. 

Weerasethakul was announced the winner of the bi-annual award, with a prize sum of £40,000, at a ceremony held at the National Museum Cardiff on January 24, 2019. 

A still from <em>Ashes</em>, a film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2012| Artes Mundi| STIR
A still from Ashes, a film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2012 Image Credit: Kick the Machine Films

After bagging the award, the artist said, "Art is the practice to discover one’s own voice and to be able to speak honestly and truthfully. Truth in art fosters empathy and in the world we are living in we need more empathy as well as art that communicates real truths. I worked in the medium of film first because it was an escape, but then I discovered that it can be subversive. It is a language that can move beyond criticism and has the ability to mirror suffering, fear, and hope. Film creates another layer of identity that counters the other seemingly fixed narratives in our world."

  • Single Channel Video Installation, 11 minutes, HD, Dolby 5.1, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2009| Artes Mundi| STIR
    Single Channel Video Installation, 11 minutes, HD, Dolby 5.1, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2009 Image Credit: Kick the Machine Films
  • Projection Performance, 90 minutes, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015| Artes Mundi| STIR
    Projection Performance, 90 minutes, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015 Image Credit: Courtesy of 3hund

Karen Mackinnon, the Director and Curator of Artes Mundi, was delighted to announce Weerasethakul as the winner of Artes Mundi 8. He said, “In these turbulent times, art that engages with pertinent social concerns offers meaning to our lives; it can challenge, teach and console.” The judges chose Weerasethakul as the winner for his unique approach to his gallery installations in which he interrogates film and cinema as an expanded artistic and cultural practice, in the process creating liminal spaces in which imagination is a radical strategy of resistance. His multifaceted works are as much about the vastness of human imagination as they are about political oppression and personal freedom.

Installation shot of Dilbar, a single-channel video installation by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Chai Siris, 2013, for Sharjah Biennial 11| Artes Mundi| STIR
Installation shot of Dilbar, a single-channel video installation by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Chai Siris, 2013, for Sharjah Biennial 11 Image Credit: Kick the Machine Films

In a statement, the Artes Mundi 8 jury said, "When times are tough it is sometimes not safe to talk about politics explicitly and Apichatpong Weerasethakul provides us with some subtle tools of resistance: the methodology of camouflage demonstrated in Invisibility is a powerful weapon in these turbulent times. While in the West Weerasethakul is better known as a feature film director, the jury wished to pay homage to the vigorous interrogation in his gallery work of filmmaking, storytelling and the political and social position of the artist."

The jury panel at the Artes Mundi 8 included Oliver Basciano, Chair of the Jury and International Editor at ArtReview; Katoaka Mami, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Laura Raicovich, independent curator from New York City; and Anthony Shapland, Creative Director, g39, Cardiff. 

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's winning piece, alongside the other shortlisted works, was on display at National Museum Cardiff until February 24, 2019.

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Masters degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased in multiple exhibitions.

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