As three ghostly voices share their stories, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2007 video installation Morakot (Emerald) lingers on dust, light, and memory in the empty rooms and hallways of a defunct Bangkok hotel. The Morakot Hotel was a haven for Cambodian refugees fleeing the Vietnamese invasion in the 1980s. By the late 1990s, however, the Thai economy had collapsed and the Morakot was forced to close its doors. Weerasethakul, a Thai artist best known for his feature-length independent movies, breathes life back into the abandoned hotel, using cinema as a vehicle for reincarnation and transformation.Morakot features the same fugitive memories that have given shape to over a decade of the director’s films, but here they are given space to roam. A green light hanging in the center of the installation casts an ethereal glow over the gallery, but the moving images onscreen exist in a more fantastical, absent world, a dreamscape for wandering in and out of time and consciousness.
Weerasethakul took inspiration for this installation from a 1906 Buddhist novel, The Pilgrim Kamanita, by Danish author Karl Gjellerup. The Kamanita’s protagonists, reborn as stars, tell one another tales over the course of centuries until they reach nirvana. Likewise, in Morakot, three actors (who frequently appear in Weerasethakul’s films) recount dreams, reminisce about hometowns, articulate regrets, and recite love poems. Although we hear them talking and laughing, we almost never see the actors on the screen, an absence that endows the work with a haunting sense of loss.
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