One of the highlights of my very partial wanderings around the visual arts program of the Adelaide Festival has been Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Morakot (Emerald). It’s an 11-minute video projection with long takes of empty hotel rooms. All is quiet, and in the air floats a haze of feathery particles. Maybe these are the souls that we eventually hear, after sitting through a long silence. Because the video is looped it’s hard to tell if my guess about when the piece begins is correct, if indeed it does begin. I quite like feeling that it doesn’t really begin, that what we’re experiencing is merely a fraction of a long moment.
Still from Morakot (Emerald) (2007)
The piece is an adaptation of Karl Gjellerup’s 1906 novel The Pilgrim Kamanita, where a couple of old souls tell each other stories until they eventually stop existing at all. In Morakot the voices seem to be of a trio of people reminiscing, sometimes appearing as ghostly heads on pillows, and just talking, making the empty rooms resonate with their memories and the memories of all those others who have passed through them. It’s quiet, and does what most dark video-installation rooms do in allowing us respite from the outside. But it also has us thinking about the histories of the ordinary spaces that constitute that outside world: empty offices, unoccupied hotel rooms.
The images could be stills but for the floating particles; they turn it into something in between stillness and movement. Something like breathing.