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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Plastic chair amplifies social dichotomy

Plastic chair amplifies social dichotomy

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“One of the reasons why I love the short stool is its functionality for everyday people in Cambodia, in Vietnam, I’ve seen it in Thailand. I love it. The little red stool everywhere on the streets. I was just drawn to it being red.”

So says artist and Studio Revolt founder Anida Yoeu Ali. Assembling a body of work out of her exploration of a crimson red colour motif, Ali threw herself into a space where she says she could “just explore the hell out of it.”

Her obsession with the versatility of the ubiquitous red plastic stool dominates her exhibition, The Space Between Inside/Outside, currently on show at Java Café.

The most thought-provoking installation is tucked downstairs. A curious juxtaposition of the white space associated with art galleries and the roadside eating habits of locals, View From Here is a collection of four tables set low off the ground

“The public is welcome to sit there,” Ali says. “The only thing is, if you want to sit there, you have to use the little red stools to sit on. What I notice about being here at Java is that there’s so many local people that pass by this place and in particular that window that’s downstairs, they always kind of peer in. I’m kind of taking advantage of that sight line and making that corner an exhibition.”

“So I’m hoping the public will just engage in that space, because I know Java gets so busy during the lunch that they use every table. And I also think it would be interesting for people on the outside to peer in and see a bunch of foreigners sitting on some little red stools on a very white kind of space.”

Two blocks east, by the entrance to the Kabko Market, students from the nearby schools dine from styrofoam trays before the long moto ride home, perched on red stools amongst the detritus that has built up on the kerb over the course of the day.

To say so might be extrapolating far beyond the artist’s intent, but for locals to peer in from outside into a space where well-heeled expats dine on $5 paninis, while seated on the same red stools as the locals down the road, is one of the boldest works of art this city has seen in recent memory.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Gleeson at ppp.lifestyle@gmail.com

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