A Conversation with the Sun is an artistic exploration by acclaimed Thai auteur and artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul in collaboration with DuckUnit and Pat Pataranutaporn, manifests Weerasethakul’s long-standing interests in moving images, theatricality, performance, technology, and their coalescence.
Interrogating the possibilities of an existence without his personal memories, A Conversation with the Sun draws on selected self-documented footage over several years—the means in which the artist has chosen to record his life since he embarked on filmmaking. Existing as if a personal memory archive, these images together with a published conversations between the artist and artificial intelligence (AI)-generated cognitive specters of individuals and entities such as Jiddu Krishnamurti, Salvador Dali, the Sun, and others.
These conversations, generated through GPT-3—an AI platform that can be used to build conversations—were developed in collaboration with Pat Pataranutaporn, a technologist and a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who explores the intersection of synthetic virtual humans and synthetic biology. Sparked by Weerasethakul’s contemplations of the Sun as he embarked on long walks amidst nature, the artist has pushed and guided the AI to generate increasingly coherent and interesting conversations to manifest new fictions.
The artist’s established motif of the fabric-curtain-backdrop present in his past projects such as Fever Room (2015, theatrical version), Blue (2018), and Constellations (2018), makes a re-incarnation in this new project. Animated and mechanized in collaboration with DuckUnit, the material’s employment—simultaneously corporeal and apparitional—alludes to its multifarious functions in both cinema and theater. Be it establishing context as a backdrop or shielding content as a curtain, its movements now parallel a performance and a reminder of the fantastical memories of the supernatural that the material embodies.
A Conversation with the Sun is a project that offers up the auteur’s own introspections, as opposed to his prior reflections of the socio-cultural milieu. Akin to the Sun’s position as a life-sustaining force of nature, the light from the projector is recognized by Weerasethakul as the filmmaker’s Sun. And just as how the light from the Sun illuminates, the light from the projector casts those memories that have been captured.
In addition to the exhibition, on May 28 at the BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY, there will also be the launch of the book A Conversation with the Sun. The book includes a conversation between Apichatpong Weerasethakul and the Sun, joined by artists, writers, and thinkers, that is generated by the artificial intelligence platform GPT-3; and a conversation with Pat Pataranutaporn on the issues of human-technology relationships and similarities between directing and commanding to artificial intelligence, as well as the idea behind this collaboration.