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Dance choreographer Sophiline Shapiro performs at an event as part of last year’s Our City Festival
Dance choreographer Sophiline Shapiro performs at an event as part of last year’s Our City Festival. Vinh Dao

Our cities: arts fest expands

Siem Reap and Battambang will take part in the country’s biggest annual art, architecture and ideas event early next year, expanding Our City Festival’s reach beyond Phnom Penh for the first time.

The festival – now entering its sixth year – will run through January and February and showcase “ideas for our city” from artists, architects, designers, performers and city planners through dance, art, video, photography, panel discussions, workshops and more.

Festival director Dana Langlois said the expansion was a response to the “huge interest” from members of the creative arts and urban development communities outside Phnom Penh in the field of “city making”.

The festival’s Phnom Penh program from January 17 to 26 will be followed by events in Siem Reap from January 31 to February 2 curated by photographer Oun Savann and then in Battambang curated by artist Mao Soviet from February 7 to 9.

Sovann said many artists in Siem Reap had been keen to get involved and have around 18 shows planned across three venues over the three days. They include an exhibition of paintings about families displaced by development, a photo exhibition about disability access and a time-lapse video installation of daily life Siem Reap.

“It will be very interesting to see how the festival highlights the difference between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap,” Sovann said.

Soviet said highlights of the Battambang leg of the festival would include tours of the city’s contemporary art scene, traditional religious architecture and art market and a project looking at water security in the area, which is subject to both floods and water shortages.

Back in Phnom Penh, the festival will include a series of art installations and events in the White Building neighbourhood, an exhibition and presentation about a sustainable building project and a group exhibition on the theme “ideas for our city”.

This year will also include for the first time an architecture competition for students asked to come up with community-driven solutions to housing and sustainable development in Phnom Penh.

Langlois said the festival was intended to ferment ideas and generate discussion for the development of Cambodia’s cities.

She said discussions were ongoing behind the scenes to have the government more directly involved.

However, Langlois said, the long-term goal of the festival was to influence young Cambodians, as the country’s future decision makers, raising their expectations of what an urban environment could be.

“There’s a lot of interest in big positive change for Cambodia and we’re hoping we can help people express that vision,” she said.

More details of scheduling at: www.ourcityfestival.org

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