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“Between”: The first Cambodian-Burmese Art Exchange at Meta House

By: Meta House Posted: June-16-2011 in
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The art project and exhibition “Between” brings together four contemporary artists from Myanmar, Aung Naing Soe, Ma Ei, Htoo Aung Kyaw, Phyu Mon, and four contemporary artists from Cambodia, Yim Maline, Khvay Samnang, Meas Sokhorn, Tes Vanna. This is the first time that such a collaboration has occurred the artists involved in this art exchange and exhibition reveal individual notions of what contemporary art can be.All of them explore different forms and materials, engaging with their inherited meanings and transforming them conceptually. This exhibition is an explosion of symbols, which move in and outside of the traditional gallery space.

In Cambodia, it is becoming increasingly common for artists to use found objects, tools of daily life and performance art as forms in their work. In Myanmar a parallel interest in these modes can be seen, beginning in the last decade. Due to this relatively new progression these artists have a noticeably fresh approach. I wonder if this commonality in the development of practice is a result of their similar art history: both countries’ visual art practice is based in traditional artisanship and both countries were colonized during a similar period. Myanmar by the British from 1824 until 1948, and Cambodia by France from 1863 until 1953. The colonial powers introduced modern painting techniques and themes to both these countries. (Not without controversy it should be noted.) Also both countries experienced a period of liberal modernism in their visual culture in the 1960’s.

At the present time, contemporary art practice in both Cambodia and Myanmar is limited to relatively small groups of mostly young artists. Subjects and themes broached are diverse across the two countries. Young artists in Cambodia are exploring their contemporary surroundings whilst playfully appropriating the iconographic symbols developed by their predecessors. Cambodian artists are also engaging with non-traditional topics, including their recent history, with a seemly critical motivation. In Myanmar ‘reality’ has become a central focus in contemporary art. This could be the reason why multimedia and performance art has been adopted in recent years. Perhaps because each respective form has an ostensible closeness to ‘the real’ and exhibit an oft-confronting immediacy. This said, lyrical and poetic symbolism
is also a vital aesthetic in the visual culture of Myanmar.

In this artist exchange project and exhibition we have worked together, as art professionals, seeking artistic approaches to examine the manifestations of and issues in the fields of the environment, feminism, care and spirituality. Starting to communicate with each other via online chat several months ago, we found ourselves caught between virtual worlds, communicating by the written word in a second language. We discovered we were confronting a similar issue of being caught between competing interests: the agenda of our art practice and the restrictions our socio-political environment. This shared experience gave us the name of this art project + exhibition, ‘between’.

The exibition is to be seen at Meta House Phnom Penh (No. 37, Sothearos Blvd,) until July 10, 2011 (Tuesday to Sunday, 2PM – 10PM, Mondays closed). The project is supported by the Heinrich Boell Foundation Bangkok. The fotos have been taken by Vinh Dao.

Lydia Parusol (Organizer and Curator, between)


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