As a part of the NIU Art Museumâs upcoming Southeast Asian Exhibition Suite, âCurrent Views and Actions: Photography and Performance Documentation from Phnom Penhâ showcases contemporary work from young Cambodian artists Khvay Samnang and Lim Sokchanlina.
This exhibition will be held from Tuesday, Aug. 28, to Saturday, Nov. 17, in the NIU Art Museumâs Rotunda Gallery. A public reception is scheduled from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13.
Samnang and Sokchanlina are two of the founding members of the artist collective, Stiev Selapak (Art Rebels) and are represented by SA SA BASSAC Gallery in Phnom Penh.
Their photography and performance documentation poignantly showcase the societal challenges and unconventional beauty of contemporary Cambodia.
Samnangâs Human Nature Series provides an intimate window into the lives and dwellings of tenants of the Bassac Riverfront Municipal Apartments, or âThe White Buildingâ in Phnom Penh. In Samnangâs startling portraits, his subjectsâ faces are obscured by masks, allowing the revealing nature of the portraits to unfold through the contents of the subjectsâ living spaces.
In his untitled performance series, Samnang documented the repetitive action of pouring sand over his head in various natural and urbanized landscapes. The significance of his performance art lies in addressing the growing urban developments encroaching around Cambodiaâs lake systems, and highlights the devastating changes to the natural and cultural landscape in some of Cambodiaâs poorest communities. Often Samnang would wade into heavily polluted waters, risking his physical safety to complete this daring, socially-conscious performance series.
Sokchanlinaâs Wrapped Future series depicts evidence of the rapidly advancing urban development of Phnom Penh; his photographs document the seemingly endless expanses of construction walls cluttering the city streets.
Many of the construction projects behind the barriers Sokchanlina photographs have laid waste to some of the cityâs most revered architectural icons; others have displaced countless city residents. While Sokchanlinaâs images are mysterious and starkly beautiful, his walls elicit feelings of loss and frustration associated with these artificial markers of cultural progress.
In Sokchanlinaâs performance art piece titled The Rock, the âWhite Buildingâ makes another appearance in this metaphorical depiction of social struggle. In his piece, Sokchanlina is straining to hold a heavy slab of concrete above his head as he desperately tries to avoid collapsing under the weight and plummeting down a pipe leading into the building.
This performance addresses the precarious position of the community as people attempt to shoulder the heavy burdens of rapid urban development, wide-spread eviction and poverty. This piece conveys Sokchanlinaâs sober lament: âI think my city is growing up faster than my people.â
âCurrent Views and Actions: Photography and Performance Documentation from Phnom Penhâ is offered in conjunction with the Cambodia Studies Conference, planned from Thursday, Sept. 13, through Sunday, Sept. 16, at NIU.
Located on the west-end first floor of Altgeld Hall, the galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours.
Exhibitions and lectures are free; donations are appreciated.
Pay parking is available in the visitorâs lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall.Â Free parking is available Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures in the lot northeast of Gilbert and College Drives.
The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the Friends of the NIU Art Museum; and the Deanâs Circle of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, NIU Foundation.
Call (815) 753-1936 for more information.