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Reahu breaks silence

Koke Lor has found fame and notoriety difficult to deal with. His controversial art depicting semi-naked Apsaras has angered the Ministry of Women's Affairs, resulting in Cambodian access to his website being shut down alongside an inbox full of hate mail that included threats "to hunt him down". The 38-year-old graduate from the Chicago Art Institute sells his art mainly online. Koke Lor recently spoke with Luke Hunt.

Would you define your art as erotic, pornographic or neither?

A little bit erotic but definitely not pornographic. My art is quite tasteful. The women are sensual, but they are basically covered up.

Who is your intended audience?

Adults. This is not for children. It's for anyone who appreciates the female form.

Are you surprised the Cambodian government has taken such an active interest in you?

Very surprised. It's a form of art that is acceptable the world over. Look at the bars and prostitution here - people seem to find that acceptable, yet they block my website.

Do you intend to petition the block?

No. I could simply switch the IP address so locals can view it, but it's not worth it.

Critics say your art is insulting to Cambodian women and Cambodian culture.

Look at Angkor Wat - this is all I'm doing. I'm just putting colour on stone.

If you had an opportunity to sit down with the Ministry of Women's Affairs and make a case for the value of your art, do you think they would change their opinion of you?

No. Judging from their response so far, they would not change their opinion of me in a million years. They are unreasonable and can't be spoken with.

You have said the government has used you as a scapegoat. For what?

I am a scapegoat for the purists who want to draw attention away from issues they can't deal with, like the sex trade and prostitution. But I really don't want to get into Khmer politics because here you can go missing in the middle of the night.

Can any good come of the controversy your work has raised?

I have pushed the artists and their boundaries and exposed my techniques to local artists, and it is up to them.

Have you benefited from the controversy? You weren't famous before. Now you have been the subject of numerous articles and online debates.

In a sense, I have accomplished change. It's part of the art exchange I set up online through my websites, exchanging art ideas and techniques. So, in a sense I have accomplished my intention.



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