Phnom Penh artists respond to vanishing lake, rapidly changing lifestyle – curator Erin Gleeson


CAMBODIAN ARTISTS URBAN DEVELOPMENT ART ACTIVISM

In April 2011, Voice of America (VOA) reported local curator Erin Gleeson as stating that nearly 80 percent of Phnom Penh-based artists in advanced practices are making work that responds to the significant physical changes taking place in the country in the name of urban development.

Lim Sokchanlina, 'Russian Confederation Boulevard, between Street 225 and Street 221', 2009, Digital C-Print, 70 x 110 cm, in Wrapped Future, 2009 - 2012, at SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Phen, Cambodia. Image courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC.

Lim Sokchanlina, ‘Russian Confederation Boulevard, between Street 225 and Street 221′, 2009, digital C-print, 70 x 110 cm, in Wrapped Future, 2009 – 2012, at SA SA BASSAC (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Image courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC.

Kim Hak, 'ON' number 19, 2010 (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Image courtesy artist.

Kim Hak, ‘ON’ number 19, 2010 (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Image courtesy the artist.

Click here to read the original article on Cambodian artists by Voice of America.

Independent efforts form cohesive collection

The combination of rapid growth and a lack of adequate master planning in Phnom Penh has resulted in the demolition of numerous historical, colonial buildings and the displacement of thousands of poor urban families, reports VOA journalist Yong Yen Nie. Cambodian artists’ reactions to these drastic upheavals range from rushing to document the current landscape, as seen in Kim Hak’s work, to questioning the psychological effects the new physical borders have had on the population, a theme which Lim Sokchanlina explores.

While all works to date have been independent artistic efforts, Erin Gleeson, the Artistic Director and co-founder of Phnom Penh gallery SA SA BASSAC, says the work represents a “cohesive collection that presents a similar view”.

Almost eighty percent of the local artists in advanced practices are committedly making commentaries on the rapid urbanisation of Cambodia. These local artists are responding to the change in their lifestyles, culture and environment and some of them are also expressing their personal experiences as they are also residents near the lake that has now vanished.

khvay_samnang_untitled_02

Khvay Samnang, ‘Untitled’, 2011, Digital C-Print, 80 x 110 cm Edition of 7 + 2AP. Image courtesy SA SA BASSAC.

A direct response

Artist Khvay Samnang‘s work forms an example of one of the more direct responses. A 2011 exhibition of his photographs shows him standing in drained lakes and dirty shallows dumping buckets of sand over his body. His work comments on the environmental impact and large-scale displacement of Cambodians due to some of the more aggressive development efforts, like the filling in of Boeung Kak Lake. Well over 3,000 of the original 4,000 families that populated the Boeung Kak Lake area in central Phnom Penh have been forced out according to Amnesty International.

Khvay Samnang tells VOA,

My work is for the people. I use my body to react towards the loss of lakes situated in the heart of the city. I am not trying to change the government’s mind about how they should develop this country but rather, I am expressing my experience of this loss and be[ing] critical about this issue.

Click here to read about Khvay Samnang’s recent work and the development of Boeung Kak Lake on Art Radar.

This abundance of visual commentary is helping to increase awareness of the situation. The article reports that UNESCO would even like to use local artists’ photography to support their effort to preserve what remains of Phnom Penh’s colonial architecture.

Reaching a wider audience

And with Cambodia’s first international art auction, backed by Christie’s, taking place this past March, the multi-disciplinary arts festival Season of Cambodia set for New York City in Spring of 2013, and a group show titled “Phnom Penh: Rescue Archeology” hosted by ifa (The Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) planned for Germany in March and July 2013, this unplanned movement is positioned to receive the attention of a significantly wider audience.

[Editorial correction | Sunday 13 May 2012: In the original title and the introductory paragraph of this post we wrote that curator Erin Gleeson stated that 80 percent of contemporary Cambodian artists were making artwork about urbanisation. These references have now been modified or removed due to their inaccuracy. As stated in the quote that we use in this article, originally published in the report by Voice of America that is linked to in this story, Gleeson says that "almost eighty percent of the local artists in advanced practices are committedly making commentaries on the rapid urbanisation of Cambodia". Here, "local artists" refers to Phnom Penh-based artists, rather than all artists working in Cambodia. We would like to further clarify that this factual error is the fault of the Art Radar editorial team and in no way reflects on the integrity of the writer of this story, Voice of America or Erin Gleeson.]

SS/KN/HH

Related Topics: Cambodian art, photography, activist art, Khvay Samnang,

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Comments

Phnom Penh artists respond to vanishing lake, rapidly changing lifestyle – curator Erin Gleeson — 2 Comments

  1. Even with the qualification, a blanket statement like 80 per cent of all artists etc with no stats/sources to back it up sounds like a clumsy attempt by Ms Gleeson to appear authoritative.Oh dear.

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