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Exploring art on the road

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Part of Rachel Faller’s Collective Geographies interactive installation.​​​

AN exhibition opening at Hotel 1961 on July 10 was merely a taste of what’s to come this October and November, when a two-week travelling exhibition by 20 bicycle-riding Cambodian and international artists comes to town as part of the first Angkor Art Explo.

Organiser Loven Ramos said preparations are well underway with artists from as far away as Mexico signing up for a 175km bicycle road trip that will see them exhibit their work in rural schools and villages between Battambang and Siem Reap.

Art Explo launches in Battambang on October 29 and will kick off with a party and week-long display of paintings in galleries around the city before the start of “art on wheels” – a four-day bike ride through neighbouring provinces, concluding in Siem Reap on November 12.

Ramos told 7Days the idea behind the travelling show is to take art out of the cities and into the countryside.

“We chose the name Explo because the trip will start off with an explosion of art in Battambang, followed by an exploration, which is the bicycle ride, and then finish up with an exposition; the showing of the art in Siem Reap.”

Artists involved in Explo are also now exhibiting works at Hotel 1961 as part of a new show titled 3 Exhibitions.

One of the artists, Phnom Penh-based Rachael Faller, said her 10-piece Collective Geographies display is about the reference points people use to identify themselves and the world around them.

“Two of the opening-night pieces involved audience interaction,” she said. “In the first I hung an upside-down map of the world on the wall and asked people to write facts they know about other places that they think other people should know, and rumours that they heard about places that turned out not to be true.”

Flipping through an out-of-date atlas from the 1930s that she picked up on a recent trip to the US, Faller points out various anomalies such as “British India” and “Manchuko”.

She said: “Generally, when we look at a map, we assume they’re authoritative and correct. We all assume maps and dictionaries, atlases and encyclopaedias are true, and we can trust them. Most are out of date as soon as they’re made, but we still assume this aspect of truth to them.”

Also showing as part of the exhibition is Encompassing, a series of infra-red photographs by former Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor executive chef  Mawa Iwayan,  including vivid shots of daily life around Siem Reap.

A set of 14 paintings titled Stepmother is the work of Battambang artist Chhon Ravy, a member of the Trachhiek Pnek artists collective.

He said his paintings, which include several disturbing images of a screaming woman impaled on a broom and a serpent coiled around a manically laughing Buddhist monk, are largely autobiographical.

“Stepmother presents the actual story of my past,” he said. “It’s about the life of a child who has been motherless since he was born. He lived with his stepmother, but left home at 13 because his everyday life was unbearable. Stepmother is about violence against children, life as a servant, adventure, and migration to different places.”

Art Explo will arrive in Siem Reap on November 12 during the Water Festival and will move around to various galleries as well as to bus stops, schools and the airport, before concluding on November 19 ahead of the Angkor Photo Festival launch.

3 Exhibitions is now on show at Hotel 1961.​

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