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Big Arty Boxes - The Box Experiment

By: Ali Sanderson Posted: February-26-2008 in
Ali Sanderson

The "Spotlight" festival of inclusive arts hosted by Epic Arts has set the bar for cultural events seeking to engage a mainstream audience with a socially transforming message. One ongoing component of this diverse collaboration by performers from around Asia, has been the very intriguing "Box Experiment".

The aptly named Box Experiment commissioned three young and emerging Cambodian artists to investigate issues of disability and shared humanity through the medium of contemporary sculpture.

The purpose of each box was for the artist to experiment with the experience of being either deaf, blind or physically disabled, and then creating Cambodia's first portable art installation.

The artists set out to address this challenge by creating visceral, interactive environments through which members of the public might engage in living without hearing, without sight, and with physical disability.

Conceived in late 2007, the process of conceptualizing the boxes began with a workshop bringing members of the deaf, blind and disabled community together with the artists to discuss day-to-day living with disability.

The artists Heng Ravuth, Veasna Tith and Meas Sokhorn worked with a form and context similar to spaces such as an amusement park ride, or a science lab, at the same time working as artists approaching the boxes as a sculpture to be altered and enhanced in response to the idea of being able to step into and out of a disability.

Over the period of the festival, the boxes will have traveled from the glamorous opening night in the gardens of Chaktomouk Theatre to the night market's buzzing local atmosphere where the exhibition has resonated in different ways through its accessibility and curious design.
Photo: Vandy Ratanak

The stunning exterior of Heng Ravuth's box made of fairy lights under colored fabric was in stark contrast to complete darkness of the interior. Ravuth dealing with the 'blind' experience has installed a black room, somewhat like a small dining room complete with a table and chair, coat stand and other bits and pieces placed around, so that the audience can experience a tactile, sometimes confusing journey of what is could be like to be blind.

Veasna Tith's installation starts with 2 colorful glass mosaics displayed on the outside walls portraying images of persons with a physical disabilities. Her interactive interior saw the audience faced with the obstacle of colorful foam structures jutting down from the ceiling making it difficult to traverse unless one used the wheelchair supplied, a feat that's seems easy, but can see you on the floor as quick as you can say 'too easy' if taken on with too much confidence.

Meas Sokhorn's very inventive piece, to experience deafness, had many intriguing facets. The bright red box was wearing earmuffs of its own which spilled orange colored water onto the glass exterior. As participants put their own earmuffs on and entered the balloon filled box to watch -not hear- Tom and Jerry cartoons on a black and white television inside, people on the outside were able to watch and laugh at either the television or the participant's confused reactions.

On the Sunday night when the boxes traveled to the Riverside Night Market crowds of people were drawn to the unusual and interactive boxes, with their bright lights and varied interiors. It was a clear success and more than just a curiosity. It gave the public a chance to think about difference, and for themselves a moment of being different. Through these 3 boxes, the project and the artists offer the insight of temporary transformation to young and old, across language and ability: a beautiful and meaningful element of the Spotlight festival.

Try for yourself. You may be surprised.

The Box Experiment Dates and Locations
Saturday February 23rd, Chaktomuk Theatre Gardens, 4-8pm
Sunday 24th February, Night Market, Riverside, Sisowath Quay, 6-9pm
Monday 25th February-Saturday 1st March, Gasolina, St 57 near Psar BKK
*all week and all day Saturday 1st for "Day of Play" free workshops and fun.

Detailed Information at
www.spotlight-inclusiveartsasia.org

Information Centre Located at Gasolina Restaurant
#56-58, Street 57, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open everyday 10am to 6pm.

Festival Club @ Gasolina
#56-58, Street 57, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open every night. 8pm til LATE
View times and locations of other Spotlight Festival events here

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