Unreal Asia is a thematic programme of short films and video art from Southeast Asia and elsewhere, exploring the side effects, symptoms and traumas of the region's post-colonial period. The programme will feature both historical and recent works focusing on the complexities of Asian experience. Participating filmmakers and artists include Dinh Q. Le (Vietnam/USA), Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand), Johan Grimonprez (Belgium/USA), Forum Lenteng (Indonesia), Chris Chong (Malaysia), Lin + Lam (USA), and more.
What makes "real life" real? Is the answer different in different places? In Southeast Asia, things taken for granted in the West - such as democracy, the individual or even history - can be little more than hypothetical. So what are the prevailing indices of the Real in this region? Family? Death? The State? Ethnicity, religion or language? Place and displacement? How do these things frame public and private memory, and how do moving images contribute to these framings?
What would a realism look like if it were informed by Confucian family values, Islamic schooling, or Asian paternalistic dictatorship? Such questions are especially acute for moving image cultures, not only because of film's privileged relationship to reality, but also because it has played such a prominent role in Asia's modernisation. But as "national cinema" gives way to the hybrid perspectives of video culture, official history and myth are compromised. Fabrication blurs with accidental history; documentary flirts with fiction. The codes of film are being re-tooled to renovate tradition, to regenerate oral history, to confront the unquiet ghosts of global conflict and state terror.
From the ancient cycles of village life to the uncanny geographies of Asia's mega-cities, Unreal Asia unhinges some familiar stereotypes of Asian culture, revealing a host of remarkable singularities, from pious punks to cross-dressing migrants, from home-made helicopters to dancing ghosts and subversive karaoke.
Gridthiya Gaweewong is Artistic Director of Bangko's Jim Thompson Art Center. She has curated numerous exhibitions and festivals including Politics of Fun (HKW, Berlin, 2005); Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (1997-2007); and Saigon Open City (Vietnam, 2006-07).
David Teh is a Bangkok-based critic and curator. His recent projects include Platform, a showcase of Thai installation artists (2006), and The More Things Change- The 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (2008). He is a director of ChalkHorse Gallery, Sydney.
Contact: Kristina Henschel