An exhibition at H Gallery, Bangkok, deliberately ‘un-compares’ art from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
“Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared”, a collaborative project between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, deviates from a comparative study of art in the two cities. The project aims instead to explore and uncover new possibilities of understanding art by exploring the unpredictable relationships between artists.
“Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared: Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh” runs at H Gallery in Bangkok until 28 December 2014, and will travel to SA SA BASSAC gallery in Phnom Penh in January 2015.
Funded by the Australian Council for the Arts and co-curated by Roger Nelson and Brian Curtin, the exhibition is the result of a six-month project launched in July 2014. The project comprises public programmes, symposia, meetings and artist residencies in a collaborative approach between the two Southeast Asian cities’ art practitioners and creative thinkers.
An ‘un-comparative’ approach
As expressed in the press release, the project “Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared”
steadfastly skirts a particular way of looking at and conceptualising contemporary art from these two cities. Ideas of the nation-state, comparative histories and the economic and institutional currency of geography, among other typical or potential frameworks, are held in critical relief.
Suggested in the title is a consideration of the ‘costs’ of distinct frameworks for approaching and disseminating knowledge about contemporary art. The project further focuses on the exploration of unpredictable relationships that arise between artists during a discursive inquiry into art from both cities.
Cambodia and Thailand share a national border, are both constitutional monarchies, hold a belief system based on animism and Theravada Buddhism, and are economically reliant on tourism and manufacturing. Although potential comparisons between Bangkok and Phnom Penh can be drawn on many levels, the curators emphasise their choice of the two cities as “arbitrary”.
The project and the resulting exhibition skirt commonalities and differences, challenging fixed interpretations of contemporary art from the region. Instead, the curators insist “on the critical value of [the two cities] remaining deliberately ‘un-compared’.”
Introducing the artists
Featured in the exhibition are five artists from Thailand and six from Cambodia. Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak (b. 1961) focuses on the exploration of women’s experience and is inspired by the female body.
Jakkai Siributr (b. 1969) works primarily with textiles, creating powerful statements about religious, social and political issues in contemporary Thailand.
Cambodian-American Amy Lee Sanford (b. 1972, Cambodia) explores the evolution of emotional stagnation and the lasting psychological effects of war including guilt, loss, alienation and displacement.
Cambodian Lim Sokchanlina’s (b. 1987) multidisciplinary practice engages with issues of social, political, cultural, economic and environmental changes in Cambodia in relation to the world.
The other artists in this exhibition work in a variety of media, including photography, performance, painting, sculpture, installation and video, and address diverse issues relating to the socio-political and cultural landscape of their respective environments. The artists are:
- Orawan Arunrak (b. 1985, Thailand)
- Makha Sanewong Na Ayuthaya (b. 1987, Thailand)
- Tada Hengsapkul (b. 1987, Thailand)
- Khvay Samnang (b. 1982, Cambodia)
- Pen Sereypagna (b. 1989, Cambodia)
- Sovan Philong (b. 1986, Cambodia)
- Imhathai Suwatthanaslip (b. 1981, Thailand)
- Tith Kanitha (b. 1987, Cambodia)
Collaboration across borders
Over its six months, the project has activated connections between artists, curators and galleries from the two cities. The participants stand at diverse levels in their career, work in varying contexts and hold different ambitions. The collaborative approach of “Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared” drew from the premise that contact and dialogue between these players has been low, thus offering a platform for the exchange of ideas.
The curators emphasise the importance of diversity and multiplicity in widening the horizon for the interpretation of contemporary art in the region:
“Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared” insists on the multiplicity of meanings inherent not only in a given art ‘world’ and geographical location but also within artists’ practices. The project’s objective is to activate connections as an alternative to proposing fixed interpretations.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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