Gustav Metzger and Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Gustav Metzger and Apichatpong Weerasethakul

New Museum

Top: Both works from Gustav Metzger’s “Historic Photographs” series, 1996.
Installation view, Generali Foundation, Vienna.
Bottom: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, production image from “Primitive,” 2009.*

May 17, 2011

Gustav Metzger: Historic Photographs


Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive

On view from May 19–July 3, 2011

235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

“Gustav Metzger: Historic Photographs” is the first solo museum exhibition in the United States of the influential eighty-five-year-old artist and activist Gustav Metzger. For over fifty years, Metzger has worked across a variety of mediums to touch on issues of war, consumerism, and ecology. This exhibition presents the most complete presentation to date of the artist’s series of sculptural installations titled “Historic Photographs.” Begun in the mid-1990s, these works confront the viewer with some of the most powerful and tragic images of twentieth-century history, capturing events including the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943, the horrors of the Vietnam War, the Oklahoma City bombing, and environmental destruction in contemporary England.

Metzger conceived of the “Historic Photographs” as a radical response to the desensitization towards images of death and destruction in society and the loss of historical memory. He reconfigures each of these iconic photographs by enlarging, obscuring, or hiding them from view using simple materials. Instead of a momentary glance, the “Historic Photographs” require an engagement with photography that is intimate, tactile, and prolonged. They create powerful physical experiences that transmit the emotional and intellectual weight of history. Instead of creating memorials to the past, Metzger’s works are gestures of social activism with the express intention of rebuilding our understanding of and sensitivity towards historical trauma.

“Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive” is the first New York exhibition devoted to the work of the internationally acclaimed Thai artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Primitive (2009)—which is having its American debut at the New Museum—is his most ambitious project to date: a multi-platform work consisting of an installation of eight videos, which is expanded here with an additional short film. Weerasethakul’s works are often set in the lush forests and quiet villages of the rural Isaan region of Thailand.

The Primitive project was first conceived by Weerasethakul during the research for his most recent feature film, the award-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives (2010). Primitive focuses on the farming village of Nabua and the political and social history of its inhabitants. Nabua was the site of clashes between the Thai military and communist-sympathizing farmers during the 1960s and ’70s. Brutal repression by the military forced many of the local male farmers into hiding, leaving the village inhabited primarily by women and children. Primitive melds documentary and fiction as it follows the activities of a group of male teenagers, descendants of the lost generation of Nabua’s men. The loose narrative of this work centers upon the building of a spaceship that can link the villagers to the past and the future. The intersecting videos map and illuminate the architecture and landscape of Nabua and capture the men in moments of creativity, play, and remembrance.

“Gustav Metzger: Historic Photographs” and “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive” are curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, with Gary Carrion-Murayari, Associate Curator.

Primitive was commissioned by Haus der Kunst, Munich with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool and Animate Projects, London. Produced by Illuminations Films and Kick the Machine Films.

“Gustav Mezger: Historic Photographs” and “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive” are made possible by the generosity of the Leadership Council of the New Museum.

Additional generous support for “Gustav Mezger: Historic Photographs” provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Fund. Additional generous support for “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive” provided by the New York State Council on the Arts and the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

Also on view this May:
“Museum as Hub: The Incongruous Image: Marcel Broodthaers and Liliana Porter”
May 11–July 3, 2011
Fifth Floor

David Medalla’s Cloud Canyon no. 14 (1963/2011)
May 19–July 3
Shaft Space

Neil Beloufa’s Kempinski (2007)
Screening continuously on selected dates May 12-July 15
New Museum Theater

About the New Museum
The New Museum is the only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to contemporary art. Founded in 1977, the New Museum was conceived as a center for exhibitions, information, and documentation about living artists from around the world. From its beginnings as a one-room office on Hudson Street to the inauguration of its first freestanding, dedicated building on the Bowery designed by SANAA in 2007, the New Museum continues to be a place of ongoing experimentation and a hub of new art and new ideas. For more information visit

*Images above:
Gustav Metzger, Historic Photographs: To Crawl Into—Anschluss, Vienna, March 1938, 1996. Black-and-white photograph on PVC and cotton cover, Historic Photographs: To Walk Into, Massacre on the Mount,Jerusalem, 8 November, 1990, 1996. Installation view, Generali Foundation, Vienna. Courtesy Generali Foundation, Photo: © Werner Kaligofsky, 2005

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, production image from Primitive, 2009. From the project, Primitive. 2 channel synchronized video, color, sound with English subtitles; 29:35 minutes. Courtesy Kick the Machine Films and Illuminations Films, 2009. Photograph by Chaisiri Jiwarangsan.

Gustav Metzger and Apichatpong Weerasethakul
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New Museum
May 17, 2011

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