At the Naoshima island, there are several on-site art installations. One morning I entered a public bathhouse by Shinro Ohtake and was jolted by its brilliant white – white walls, floors, and ceilings. The space was decorated with erotic memorabilia throughout. They were screened, painted, imbedded, stenciled, onto the mirrors, light boxes, sinks, glass beads, faucets, toilets. This ivory landscape was being invaded by multi-coloured species of plants, animals, and humans, destined to a celebratory lovemaking, seeding. Seaweeds, octopuses, skin-tight divers, jellyfish, protozoa, bikini girls. All artifacts were the replicas or actual porn memories from the yesteryear, exploding, lamenting in a bathhouse/laboratory full of naked bodies. In the middle of the room stood a lone elephant wrinkled with years. After the perplexity of the encounter, I was in a meditative state as if I was sitting in a lotus position. But I was standing, fully aware of my feet on the tiles, my eyes, my neck, my ears. Momentarily I was robbed of my memories. I stopped projecting backward and forward. My sense of attachment disappeared. It was there that I thought maybe the purpose of art, of cinema, of theatre, like a few other human inventions such as science and speed – was to offer the state of being incomprehensible. And that the mind is offered an escape out of time thus deactivate it, at least for a few moments.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a Thai film director, screenwriter and producer (kick the machine). In his work he deals with memory and subtly addresses personal politics and social issues. He has won numerous international prizes, including a Golden Palm (Cannes Film Festival, 2010) for his feature film ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’, making it the first Southeast Asian film to win this prestigious award.