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Artist with message in running for big award


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An artist who photographs and films unnatural ponds created by US bombing during the Vietnam war is in contention for a big art prize.

Vandy Rattana, 31, has been selected as Cambodia’s artist to display his photos and a video clip as part of this year’s prestigious Asia-Pacific Foundation Signature Art Prize in Singapore.

Rattana, a freelance photographer based in France, travelled through 10 Cambodian provinces, including Mondulkiri, Kampong Cham, Svay Reang and Takeo, in 2009 to shoot the unnatural ponds.

While taking photos, Rattana interviewed many people across the country who said the ponds had been caused by US carpet-bombing campaigns in the Vietnam conflict.

Rattana, the first artist to focus on these ponds, wants to make the world aware of the devastating — and enduring — consequences the bombing had on the land and its people.

“There is a Khmer proverb that says, ‘You can hear something a thousand times and not know it; yet if you see it with your eyes just once, you know’,” he says.

Nine of Rattana’s photographs and one video clip, which is 21 minutes long, will be displayed at the Singapore Art Museum from tomorrow until Friday, alongside the work of 15 other artists from various Asia- Pacific countries.       

Erin Gleeson, a foreign artist who works in Cambodia, nominated five local artists for the prize and said she was proud to see Rattana recognised for his innovation.

“Bomb Pond is about a subject that other artists have never worked on before. Rattana shows the history, which is important,” Gleeson says.   

As well as pushing a strong message, Rattana is in the running to win the grand prize of $35,000.

Judges will select the winners of the grand prize and three Jurors’ Choice Awards, worth about $8000 each, on Thursday. The People’s Choice Award is also worth about $8000.

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