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Sick Bodies and the Political Body: The Political Theology of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor

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This paper analyses the politico-theological dimension of Thai film-director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's recent film, "Cemetery of Splendour" as a fundamental criticism of contemporary Thai polity through deciphering his puzzlingly cryptic expressions deeply rooted in quotidian practices of Thai society. This is published as part of the exhibition of "2 or 3 Tigers" curated by Anselm Franke and Hyunjin Kim, Haus der Kulturen der Welt(HKW), Berlin. *As a sequel of this essay, see also my Laboratorium Phantasmatum, a draft for the official catalog of Apichatpong's (and Hisakado's ) installation to be presented at 2019 Venice Biennale.
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Introduction: The king’s two bodies
My rst encounter with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor
le me with the strange—and perhaps somewhat obsessive—impression that
this lm has something to do with an exotic legal theory prevalent during the
Tudor dynasty in early modern England. This is about the two bodies of a king,
a theory that claims that whereas one of them may die, the other does not.
Supercially, the reason this movie elicited an association of this sort is not
dicult to surmise. The lm starts with the story of a weird tropical illness
that causes some soldiers to require abnormal amounts of sleep. As the story
develops, it is revealed that underneath the hospital where the sick soldiers
are being treated lies an ancient cemetery of kings, who are, in fact, alive and
ghting each other by dint of imbibing the soldiers’ energy, which eventually
causes this sleeping disease among the soldiers. In the lm, this is narrated as
a story about the past; however, I have been wondering if Apichatpong really
meant it to be regarded in this way.
In sixteenth-century England during the time of King Henry VIII, the country
was in turmoil from a series of events, starting with the issue of the king’s
divorce from Catherine, which prompted his eorts to take England from the
reign of the Roman Church. This move eventually led to the establishment of
the Anglican Church, followed by the systematic abolition of traditional monas-
teries, the search for a new liturgy, and so forth. During this period, a rather
novel theory on the nature of kingship took shape among leading legal theorists.
This is the theory mentioned above concerning the two bodies of the king.
Of these two bodies, one is called the body natural and the other the body
politic. The body natural refers to the biological body, which is born, grows up,
gets older, and dies. Meanwhile, the body politic, as these theorists surmise,
will not be aected by biological laws. The king’s political body, they say, is
immortal; it does not die (non moritur).
This theory has become widely known in the learned community through
Ernst Kantorowicz’s (1957) magnum opus, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in
Mediaeval Political Theology, which follows minutely the trajectory of the
Sick Bodies and the Political Body:
The Political Theology of
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s
Cemetery of Splendor
Masato Fukushima
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development of this idea from its birth to its contemporary signicance. Its
development is closely related to the concept of the “mystical body” (corpus
mysticum) in Catholicism, which I do not discuss in detail here.1
In any event, this legal theory sprang from a perceived acute need for
legal clarication on the status of the kingdom when the king is dead. It focuses
on the fact that the throne is vacant when the king dies, before the next one
comes to the throne. The question was posed as follows: Does the kingdom
disappear during this period, even very temporarily? No, the legalists at the
time answered, because even though the king’s natural body is gone, the king-
dom remains, because the king has a political body that is not aected by
aging or even death. In brief, the king’s political body is the body mystical, which
does not die.
Natural bodies
Watching Apichatpong’s lms in succession makes us realize that his works
repeatedly refer to similar topics, if from subtly dierent angles in each work.
The main stages and/or themes for his works are Isaan (Northeast Thailand),
soldiers, hospitals (or doctors and patients), forests, supernatural topics such
as ghosts and reincarnation, and so forth. Among these, medical practice is
of pivotal importance. His biography reveals that he was born of doctor parents
and that he moved from Bangkok to Isaan, following his parents’ move. This
background shows in his repeated references to hospitals and related prac-
tices in almost all of his lms; indeed, in Syndromes and a Century and
Cemetery of Splendor, the hospital itself serves as the main seing.
Even in the works where the stage is not the hospital itself, his medical
gaze, so to speak, is palpable. First, many of the main characters of his lms
are either sick or suering from a disability: a wheelchair-bound boy and deaf
girls; a Burmese immigrant with skin disease; Uncle Boonmee, who is literally
dying; soldiers who suer from a sleeping disease; Jen, who suers from
an elephantiasis-like skin disease; and so forth. The by-products of such dis-
eases are also the object of close description at times. In Blissfully Yours,
THE KING’S TWO BODIES: A Study in Mediaeval Political
Theology by Ernst H. Kantorowicz. Copyright © 1957,
renewed 1985 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by
permission. hp://press.princeton.edu/titles/10728.html
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the fragments of skin caused by a skin disease are owing in the river, while
in Cemetery of Splendor a urine-guide container, which holds soldiers’ urine,
is depicted at length. In the same lm, there is even a scene of a woman
urinating out in the eld.
Apichatpong’s general concern with physiological reality, so to speak,
especially that of sick bodies, can be dubbed as the gaze of “medical realism,
and when this perspective is directed towards those without sick or disabled
bodies, his expression becomes almost ruthless. For instance, in Blissfully
Yours, the scene of sexual intercourse between two rather aged people who
are commiing adultery is presented with numbing precision, as if it were a
documentary. In Syndromes and a Century, a kiss between the doctor and his
lover is depicted at great length, even down to the doctor’s gesture of shame-
fully hiding his erect genital. This scene is one of those ordered for deletion by
the censoring authority in Thailand.
When this medical realism is further directed to social authority, the
gaze inevitably conveys an atmosphere of radical criticism. One such case is
Apichatpong’s treatment of Buddhist monks in his lms. Diering from the
typical world of Buddhist monks in Japan, who obediently followed the verdict
of the Meiji government in the late nineteenth century that allowed them to
both eat meat and get married, Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia stipu-
lates a stricter set of precepts that also guarantee the high social status of
monks there.2 There may be actual misdeeds and even scandals among them,
inviting cynical and even critical comments from both the public and the mass
media; however, such is not considered tantamount to openly expressing
criticism in the visual media, which is not allowed. Apichatpong, in this respect,
oen appears to be unrelenting. In Syndromes and a Century, he was ordered
to cut a scene that describes a monk playing the guitar, as well as the scene
of the doctor’s kiss noted above; his refusal to comply with this demand meant
that the lm was not allowed to circulate in Thailand. In the case of Uncle
Boonmee, one scene portrays a young monk who, playing truant from his duty
in the temple to see his family, takes o his yellow Buddhist robe, and takes a
shower, thereby exposing his muscular body. The scene aer this, a mysterious
Film still from Cemetery of Splendor. Photograph by Chai Siris. Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films.
Distribution: Rapid Eye Movies
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one that is probably caused by a mischievous evil spirit (phi ), has oen been
favorably acclaimed by his critics as the epitome of the cinematographic
magic in his artful lmmaking. In my view, however, the more impressive is the
previous scene just described, wherein Buddhist monks are revealed with
down-to-earth realism, as if claiming that a monk, however much revered by
the public, is only a common man when not wearing the yellow robe. This,
I agree, is true, at least sociologically. Yet describing such sociological “truth
in a visual manner is another story, which I believe requires a fair amount of
courage and determination on the lmmaker’s part.
The political body
Whether king or commoner, both are equal in terms of their natural bodies:
the king, just like the commoner, will become sick and old, following the
passage of time, and will eventually breathe his last. The legalists in the Tudor
era, however, insisted that the political body of the king is immortal (non
moritur) and thus not aected by this natural law.
For further discussing the meaning of the political body in Apichatpong’s
lms, the soldier gures in his works may be pivotal, as they also appear in
almost every picture that he has produced thus far. In fact, in both Blissfully
Yours and Cemetery of Splendor, soldiers are the main characters, while
in Syndromes and a Century, soldiers are found everywhere in the hospital,
which serves as the main seing for the narrative; even the clandestine
research on articial legs for wounded soldiers is minutely described in the
laer part of the movie. It probably goes without saying that these soldiers
and even the army as a whole are one of the major components of the modern
political body; in terms of the theory of the two bodies of the king, however,
it plays only a subordinate role. In fact, I do not believe that Apichatpong treats
these soldiers in a manner that is harsher or more critical than his approach
to, say, doctors or monks. This is because his focus is on the more essential
problem of the political body, namely the very constitution of his country as
a totality.
In contemporary Thailand, any discussion on the king or the monarchy is
not allowed, and any breach of this rule is considered as lese majeste, which
leads directly to arrest and punishment with prison terms. Rama IX, who
demised in October 2016, was on the throne for almost seventy years, the
longest-reigning monarch in the world at that time, and was deeply respected
by the public. On the other hand, his old age and the long-lasting political
struggles between the red-shirt and yellow-shirt factions as well as the sub -
sequent military coup, made the atmosphere in Thai society both tense and
oppressive.
However, what is meant here by the “political body” in Apichatpong’s
lms—especially of the longer versions—is not only oriented to such military
juntas or even to the recent bloodshed related to this oppressive regime,
but also to the very constitution of the contemporary Thai polity at large with
its historical background. This aspect is oen underrated by quite a few
critics when they discuss (or more precisely, refuse to discuss) the political
aspects of his works. In reality, concerning the political body of the Thai state
as a whole, his works are very eloquent, even if oen in the form of indirect
suggestion and subtle reference.
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Part of the reason for his need to touch upon this issue of the political body,
or polity, of Thailand is that the main seing for his lms is Isaan, a region in
Northeast Thailand. Narrating the comprehensive history of this region is
impossible owing to space limitations, but it suces to mention here that this
area has been closely related to the neighboring regions of both Lao (later
Laos) and Khmer (later Cambodia), and dierent both culturally and linguisti-
cally from central Thailand. Meanwhile, since the eighteenth century, the
unication of the country has been driven by the present regime situated in
Bangkok, and this area became the U.S. army’s military base on the balefront
against the inltrating inuence of communism from neighboring communist
countries.3
Hence, the genius loci described in his pictures look somewhat exotic
to those familiar with the more standard customs in the central region of the
country.4 For instance, the ghost story related to the spirit of a tiger in Tropical
Malady is one about a shaman from Khmer. The royal cemetery in Cemetery
of Splendor is said to be from the time of the Khmer dynasty as well. In fact,
the shrine dedicated to the spirit of past princes (who later appear as living
bodies) in that piece looks very exotic, at least to me; it looks more like that
dedicated to a nat (spirit) in Burma rather than the more common shrine for
a phi (spirit) in central Thailand, which is not very dierent from a Japanese
Shinto shrine.
The heterogeneity specic to this area of Isaan from the perspective of
central Thailand can be found elsewhere, too, in such works as Blissfully Yours.
The main character is an illegal immigrant from Burma, and the eorts of his
friends to procure a health certicate from a doctor to protect his status are
minutely depicted in the lm. Meanwhile, in Uncle Boonmee, a short conversa-
tion about immigrants from Laos is inserted among the trivial exchanges
between the villagers. Further still, in Cemetery of Splendor, a scene between
a temporarily awakened soldier and Jen concerns the subtle dierences
between the dialects from Isaan and both central and southern Thai language.
In addition to subtly problematizing the heterogeneity of ethnic and
cultural elements of Isaan, as distinguished from the standard of central
Thai-ness, there are frequent references to the historical background of this
region. These can easily be perceived as bloodthirsty in describing the histor-
ical struggle against the inltration of communism from the neighboring
countries. For instance, in Uncle Boonmee, such a reference is made in a trivial
conversation between Boonmee and Jen: when Boonmee deplores the cause
of his illness, which he suspects is derived from his karma related to killing
many communist soldiers, Jen gently replies that her father also tried to chase
communists—in vain, so he hunted animals in the forest instead. Following
this, later in the same lm, Boonmee’s son, now transgured as a monkey spirit
(phi), is strangely put into a time machine and sent to the future where he
nds the country governed by a dictator. In Cemetery of Splendor, a paranoiac
atmosphere lls scenes in the lm here and there, somewhat reecting the
recent turmoil in Thai politics: the psychic woman who can read the dreams of
the sleepers is repeatedly rumored to be a spy from the FBI, while the recent
changes in the hospital environment are described as the outcome of an ICT
company conspiracy.
The kind of crooked nature in the Thai polity that is seen in the Isaan
region has been repeatedly referred to in all of Apichatpong’s pictures, though
these have also been somewhat embedded in the overall landscapes of his
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works. However, I have the strong impression that in Cemetery of Splendor,
these two elements—the sick bodies and the political body of the kingdom—
which have been referred to somewhat separately in his previous lms, have
now become visibly united in the combination of the soldiers who suer from
the unexplained sleeping disease and the kings of the past who are causing
the disease. Am I the only one who sees this lm as manifesting Apichatpong’s
determination to tackle the issue in a more outright manner?
It should be noted that the narrative of the lm focuses on the story of the
kingdom in the past, not the contemporary royal regime (if one does that, one
will be arrested). However, Apichatpong’s way of playing the game this time
seems to be very close to a straight-pitch game, to adopt a baseball metaphor.
One such typical case is a scene in the midst of the lm where Jen and a
soldier, who is temporarily awakened from the sleeping disease, leave the hospi-
tal for a night on the town to see a movie. In Thailand, aer the trailer and just
before the main lm is shown, there is a moment where the king appears on
the screen with the national anthem. The audience is obliged to stand upright
to greet the king’s glorious gure. In the lm portrayed in Cemetery of
Splendor, however, aer a lengthy trailer that introduces a noisy ghost movie,
there is a mysterious scene wherein Jen and the soldier, along with the rest
of the audience, simply stand still in darkness in front of the screen. This dark-
ness appears to be intentionally ambiguous: it may be variously interpreted as
the absence of the king or a portrayal of a black hole of power. Either way,
however, we get the strong impression that the real main character of this lm
has nally made his appearance here. Following this scene, the town itself
becomes colored with a light that slowly changes from blue to red, the same
light emied from the bizarre machines used in the hospital for allegedly
curing the sleeping disease that aicts the soldiers there. Thus, this scene
clearly suggests that it is not only the soldiers but also the whole town that
is in a coma.
The story then morphs into a scene where Jen, with the help of a psychic
woman, dives into the dream of one of the sleeping soldiers. In a sense,
this can be read as Jen’s psychoanalytic (or more precisely, hypnoanalytic?)
Film still from Cemetery of Splendor. Photograph by Chai Siris. Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films.
Distribution: Rapid Eye Movies
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approach to the collective unconscious of the political body of Thailand, as sym-
bolized by her stepping into the royal palace situated in the soldier’s dream.
The details of the imagined royal palace, such as the hall of mirrors and
exotic Burmese royal bathtub, are narrated in an astute and exotic manner,
and it is in this seing that Jen’s pivotal monologue, almost a murmur, is pre -
sented, wherein she expresses her realization that “in the center of the king-
dom, there are only cornelds.
For an understanding of the nature of the traditional polity in Southeast
Asia, it is pivotal to note that it is dened not by its geographical territory, which
is demarcated by the border, but by its very center; in other words, a kingdom
is almost identical with its capital. The royal palace, wherein the king resides,
is situated in the capital, and the king is, by denition, in the center of the
universe.5 Thus, to say that there are only cornelds in the center is to say that
there is no such thing as kingdom on the Earth.6
Transformation of the body
The way in which Apichatpong allows the main character to present this radical
conclusion, as if it were nothing, is impressive indeed. However, it is also true
that the world of the two bodies he has described thus far deviates naturally
and fundamentally from the original dualism of the natural and political bodies
as stipulated by the legalists in the Tudor era. Behind this lies a thought that
these legalists had never conceived—namely, the idea of reincarnation and the
transformation of the body.
While it is a lile hard to perceive the whole-hearted respect of orthodox
Buddhism in Apichatpong’s uerly dispassionate presentation of the monks
in his pictures, his belief in reincarnation and the transformation of the body
appear to be more authentic, as observed in a conversation between the doctor
and the young monk in Syndromes and a Century. Tropical Malady narrates
this very topic of transformation from man into animal while Uncle Boonmee is
literally the story of a man who can see his past lives. Quite a few critics tend
to underscore this theme as the pith of his cinematographic magic.
In this essay, however, I am more concerned with the political connotations
of such a viewpoint. In truth, this perspective provides a fundamentally dierent
Galactic Polity: S. J. Tambiah, World Conqueror and World
Renouncer, A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against
a Historical Background. © Cambridge University Press 1976
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picture from that emphasized in the theory of the two bodies: namely, the im -
mortality of the body politic. In fact, it is true that this notion of the transforming
body may harm the immortality of the political body itself. If the political body
reveals its transforming nature through panta rei (namely, the impermanence
of things), this is straightforwardly in opposition to the belief in the immortality
of political authority. In fact, according to the traditional theory of polity in
neigh boring Java, Indonesia, the authority of kings, which is visually represented
by the existence of a shining entity called wahyu, is thought to diminish over
the generations; thus, the notion of impermanence has already been embed-
ded in the very theory of the legitimacy of kingship there.
In fact, Kantorowicz himself admits that something more is needed than
a discursive emphasis on the immortality of the king’s political body for the
purposes of a more situated choreography of royal authority. Such accessories
include royal regalia, such as the crown and other royal paraphernalia, for
impressing the subjects. In an exotic scene in Uncle Boonmee, a princess-like
gure in the legendary form makes love to a big catsh. As is typical in these
lms, this intercourse is lengthily depicted, with the royal jewels falling o the
female’s body to the boom of the river, one by one. This scene seems to imply
that once such supplementary devices as jewels have fallen from the royal
body, all that is le is the natural body, which is intrinsically no dierent from
that of animals, as corroborated by the fact that such intercourse is indeed
aorded.
Back to the Tudor era
As seen already in my narrative, Apichatpong’s concern as expressed in his
lms seems to overlap partly with the two bodies theory even as it also
subtly deviates from it. Meanwhile, it may be worthwhile mentioning another
com parison, with which readers may already be familiar. This is related to
a recent documentary I watched on TV concerning the real identity of William
Shakespeare, the world-famous English playwright from the Elizabethan era
active at the end of the Tudor dynasty. The documentary aempts to prove
that Shakespeare, rather than being a merchant from Stratford-upon-Avon,
was actually Edward de Vere (the Earl of Oxford), a very talented and educated
young aristocrat who was genealogically close to Queen Elizabeth I herself.
This theory has seemed to gain increasing support in recent years.7 Of partic-
ular note is the fact that the laer part of the Elizabethan era was marked by
a rapid increase in political and religious turmoil, as represented in part by a
failed coup aempt from the Earl of Essex in 1601, which was a serious threat
to the throne. During this turbulent period, Shakespeare’s Richard II was
staged, which describes sensitive topics such as rebellion and even the depo-
sition of the king. Various authors in the documentary pose a compelling
question: Why was Shakespeare, unlike other writers who were actually arrested
for criticism of the throne, apparently immune to such an aack from the royal
court and able to stage his works? The shared conviction of these authors is
that Shakespeare’s close ties to the royal court in fact worked as special
protection that allowed such potentially dangerous plays to be tolerated and
even circulated. This is held up as one instance of proof that these authors
believe support their claim, namely, that Shakespeare’s real identity was the
Earl of Oxford.
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Such instances cannot be conned to a specic period in a specic country,
as many writers and artists, all over the world and throughout history, have
aempted to express themselves under severe political and/or religious
oppression. Yirmiyahu Yovel’s (1989) impressive work on Baruch Spinoza’s
double language eloquently proves the need to interpret his work in his
context, in which he was under serious threat of accusations that he was an
atheist.8 Another example, which I have experienced myself, is the case of
the New Order of Suharto’s military regime in Indonesia in the 1980s. In fact,
during my stay there, the works of world-famous novelist Pramoedya Ananta
Toer were banned. In addition, hardly any critical voices were raised against
some illegitimate policy practices on the part of the Suharto government
that clearly violated human rights, such as cases of the illegal killing of young
gangsters by the army, called “mysterious shootings.” In this oppressive atmo-
sphere, people developed a technique of insinuation, so to speak, to express
their criticism. These techniques were oen witnessed on such occasions
as local festivities where Islamic leaders were invited for educational and enter -
taining speeches. Though the police were ordinarily censoring such speeches,
these leaders were tactful enough to evoke laughter from the audience by
very subtly referring to situations in such a way that they had dierent levels
of interpretation.
Another case is that of socialist Poland aer the military coup of General
Jaruzelski in the 1980s. In this case, the rst Polish Pope, John Paul II visited
his home country and spoke openly in front of an ocean-like audience about
the importance of “solidarity” (solidarność) among the people, which received
enthusiastic applause from the audience: needless to say, Solidarność was
also the name of the independent labor union that was ghting against the
socialist government.
When Akira Kurosawa passed away decades ago, Steven Spielberg called
him “the pictorial Shakespeare of our time.” I do not know whether Apichatpong
Java, Indonesia, in the 1980s. © Masato Fukushima
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Weerasethakul will be called something like this in the future. One thing I am
certain of, however, is that I have never heard that he has any special protec-
tion from the present government of his country, the kind of protection that
the supporters of the theory of “the Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare” believe
that Shakespeare enjoyed from Queen Elizabeth I for his potentially dangerous
plays. Apichatpong, day by day, has conducted his original and, in a sense,
risky quest of the relationship between the natural body and the political body
unarmed, without either visible or invisible protection from those in power.
Knowing this, we are all obliged to keep a heedful watch on his continuing
ventures, with eyes wide open, like Jen at the end of Cemetery of Splendor.
1. Masato Fukushima, “Corpus Mysticum
Digitale?: On the Notion of Two Bodies in
the Era of Digital Technology,Mortality,
vol. 20, no. 4 (2016), pp. 303–18.
2. Ryosuke Kuramoto, Sezoku wo ikiru shukke-
shatachi: Jôzabukkyôtoshakai myanmâ ni
okeru shukke seikatsu no minzokushi (The
Hermits living in This World: An Ethnography
of Renunciation in Theravada Buddhism in
Myanmar). Tokyo: Hôzôkan, 2014.
3. David Teh, “Itinerant Cinema: The Social
Surrealism of Apichatpong Weerasethakul,
Third Text, vol. 25, no. 5 (2011), pp. 595–609.
4. Benedict Anderson, “The Strange Story of
a Strange Beast: Receptions in Thailand of
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Sat Pralaat,”
in May Adadol Ingawanij and Benjamin McKay
(eds), Glimpses of Freedom: Independent
Cinema in Southeast Asia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 2011.
5. See Cliord Geertz, Negara: the Theatre State
in Nineteenth-century Bali. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1980; and Stanley
Jeyaraja Tambiah, World Conqueror and World
Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity
in Thailand against a Historical Background.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
6. On Saminism, see Masato Fukushima, Jawa
no shûkyô to shakai: Suharuto taiseika indone-
shia no minzokushiteki memowâru (Religion
and Society of Java: An Ethnographic Memoir
of Suharto’s New Order in Indonesia). Tokyo:
Hituzi Shobô, 2002; and Masato Fukushima,
Anima’s Silent Repatriation: Reconsidering
Animism in the Contemporary World,” in
Anselm Franke (ed), Animism. Kunsthal
Antwerp: Sternberg Press/Extra City, 2010.
7. Last Will. & Testament, US: First Folio Pictures,
PBS, 2013.
8. Yirmiyahu Yovel, Spinoza and Other Heretics.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
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Twórczość Apichatponga Weerasethakula rozważana jest jako przykład sztuki zaangażowanej, odnoszącej się do przeszłości, teraźniejszości i przyszłości Tajlandii. O wydarzeniach historycznych reżyser nie opowiada wprost, lecz posługuje się konstrukcją alegoryczną, za pomocą której pozwala przemówić duchom tych, którzy odeszli lub zostali skrzywdzeni. Analiza kontekstu politycznego łączy się z refleksją nad obecnością widm, dlatego metodologicznym punktem odniesienia jest widmontologia Jacques’a Derridy. Propozycja francuskiego filozofa pozwala zrozumieć, jaką rolę pełnią duchy w dziełach tajlandzkiego artysty. W swoim artykule Loska skupia się nie tylko na filmach fabularnych Apichatponga, ale również na jego projektach wideo i instalacjach multimedialnych, by pokazać, na czym polega nawiedzenie i w jaki sposób zmusza ono do przyjrzenia się temu, co wyparte z oficjalnej narracji, czyli przemocy, okrucieństwu i nieprzepracowanej traumie.
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The purpose of this article is to analyse the theoretical connotation of the idea of our digital body surviving the death of our natural body, advocated by such evangelists of digital afterlife as Bell and Gemmel. For this purpose, I will explore the seminal notion of ‘two bodies in one’ first analysed by Ernst Kantorowicz in his The King’s Two Bodies, which details the emergence of the legal concept by which the king has both a natural body and a mystical body (corpus mysticum) understood as the everlasting polity. To explore the possibility of applying this notion to ideas concerning the body in the digital era, I will elaborate on two additional concepts, namely, the concept of diarchy in traditional authority, as proposed by Rodney Needham, and Toyo Ito’s concept of the natural and digital body originating from his peculiar view of contemporary architecture. Through the method of abductive comparison, I will discuss the limitation of Bell and Gemmell’s concept of an everlasting digital body, and the intrinsic lack of institutionality upon which the very notion of the two bodies of the king relies. Finally, I will introduce the concept of the corpus mysticum digitale, a figure, which, in the time of the decline of the power of ritual, legitimises the dead as a collective entity that lives eternally, but anonymously. KEYWORDS: two bodies; ritual; Kantorowicz; virtual body; mystical body
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Commentary on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's work to date leaves much to be desired. At best, it affords a survey of his feature filmography in terms of Western art cinema aesthetics, and sometimes of a ‘New Asian Cinema’; at worst, it descends into exoticism. Despite his experimental leanings, and constant appearance in galleries and biennials, engagements from the side of contemporary art have done little to deepen the ahistorical contemplation of his work. This article seeks to contextualise Apichatpong's practice with reference to Thai political and cultural histories, as well as some touchstones in Western modernism. Taking as a starting point his first feature-length film (Mysterious Object at Noon, 2000), the author begins by establishing an ethno-political background for his practice, and follows this with two detours: the first, art historical, explores Apichatpong's putative alignment with a certain Surrealism; the second is psycho-geographic, and brings into relief a poetics of itinerancy in his work. At issue is the question of the moving image's amplitude as a social historical channel; and of what critical purchase an ‘itinerant cinema’ may have on Thailand's fractious political present.
Sezoku wo ikiru shukkeshatachi: Jôzabukkyôtoshakai myanmâ ni okeru shukke seikatsu no minzokushi (The Hermits living in This World: An Ethnography of Renunciation in Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar)
  • Ryosuke Kuramoto
Ryosuke Kuramoto, Sezoku wo ikiru shukkeshatachi: Jôzabukkyôtoshakai myanmâ ni okeru shukke seikatsu no minzokushi (The Hermits living in This World: An Ethnography of Renunciation in Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar). Tokyo: Hôzôkan, 2014.
The Strange Story of a Strange Beast: Receptions in Thailand of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Sat Pralaat Glimpses of Freedom: Independent Cinema in Southeast Asia
  • Benedict Anderson
Benedict Anderson, "The Strange Story of a Strange Beast: Receptions in Thailand of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Sat Pralaat," in May Adadol Ingawanij and Benjamin McKay (eds), Glimpses of Freedom: Independent Cinema in Southeast Asia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011.
Negara: the Theatre State in Nineteenth-century Bali World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background
  • See Clifford Geertz
See Clifford Geertz, Negara: the Theatre State in Nineteenth-century Bali. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980; and Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
Jawa no shûkyô to shakai: Suharuto taiseika indoneshia no minzokushiteki memowâru (Religion and Society of Java: An Ethnographic Memoir of Suharto's New Order in Indonesia) Tokyo: Hituzi Shobô, 2002; and Masato FukushimaAnima's Silent Repatriation: Reconsidering Animism in the Contemporary World
  • On Saminism
  • Masato Fukushima
On Saminism, see Masato Fukushima, Jawa no shûkyô to shakai: Suharuto taiseika indoneshia no minzokushiteki memowâru (Religion and Society of Java: An Ethnographic Memoir of Suharto's New Order in Indonesia). Tokyo: Hituzi Shobô, 2002; and Masato Fukushima, "Anima's Silent Repatriation: Reconsidering Animism in the Contemporary World," in Anselm Franke (ed), Animism. Kunsthal Antwerp: Sternberg Press/Extra City, 2010.
US: First Folio Pictures
Last Will. & Testament, US: First Folio Pictures, PBS, 2013.
or 3 Tigers Exhibition
  • Yirmiyahu Yovel
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  • Heretics
Yirmiyahu Yovel, Spinoza and Other Heretics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989. 2 or 3 Tigers Exhibition March 21 -July 3, 2017 hkw.de/tigers