Art Museum to showcase contemporary works from young Cambodian artists in ‘Phnom Penh’

Lim Sokchanlina’s Wrapped Future Series, “Samdech Hun Sen Street, South End” (2010)

Lim Sokchanlina’s Wrapped Future Series, “Samdech Hun Sen Street, South End”

As a part of the NIU Art Museum’s upcoming Southeast Asian Exhibition Suite, “Current Views and Actions: Photography and Performance Documentation from Phnom Penh” 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 Museum’s 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.

Samnang’s Human Nature Series provides an intimate window into the lives and dwellings of tenants of the Bassac Riverfront Municipal Apartments, or “The White Building” in Phnom Penh. In Samnang’s startling portraits, his subjects’ faces are obscured by masks, allowing the revealing nature of the portraits to unfold through the contents of the subjects’ 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 Cambodia’s lake systems, and highlights the devastating changes to the natural and cultural landscape in some of Cambodia’s poorest communities. Often Samnang would wade into heavily polluted waters, risking his physical safety to complete this daring, socially-conscious performance series.

Khvay Samnang’s Human Nature Series (2011)

Khvay Samnang’s Human Nature Series

Sokchanlina’s 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 city’s most revered architectural icons; others have displaced countless city residents. While Sokchanlina’s images are mysterious and starkly beautiful, his walls elicit feelings of loss and frustration associated with these artificial markers of cultural progress.

In Sokchanlina’s performance art piece titled The Rock, the “White Building” 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 Sokchanlina’s sober lament: “I think my city is growing up faster than my people.”

“Current Views and Actions: Photography and Performance Documentation from Phnom Penh” 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 visitor’s lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. 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 Dean’s Circle of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, NIU Foundation.

Call (815) 753-1936 for more information.

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