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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man about town: 13 September 2013

Man about town: 13 September 2013


So there I was at the Park Hyatt’s debut art exhibition, looking at a circle of pots – some broken, some not – placed on a square of cloth on the floor. This, I was reliably informed, related to a video loop that was constantly being screened and was titled, From Above, Full Circle, which I was also reliably informed depicted a culling of thousands of photos of a performance called Full Circle that the artist Amy Lee Stanford perpetrated in Phnom Penh in 2012 to apparent acclaim, whereby for six days she broke pots and then repaired them.

How bloody boring is that? And how doubly boring it is to watch a video of photos of this?

Call me a philistine, call me old fashioned, call me whatever, but I hate installation and performance art simply because it is mostly so boring, so drearily and pretentiously contrived, and is to art what doodling is to drawing.

Oddly enough, according to the Australian curator Roger Nelson in an article titled, Aesthetic of Concept: Performance Art in Cambodia, published in The Lifted Brow, Sanford is also judgmental about some performance art.

Nelson wrote, “‘Self-indulgent and self-indulging’ is how Amy Lee Sanford describes boring performance art of the wanky/wanking variety.”

Obviously Sanford doesn’t view her own work in that light as I do, although to be accurate her work isn’t just performance art – its “durational performance art” possibly because the sheer boringness was originally extended over a considerable duration of time, in this case, the aforementioned six days.

Thankfully the video on display at the Park Hyatt is only about 18 minutes in duration.

And, according to Roger Nelson in his article, Sanford was coy in defining her Phnom Penh performance. Nelson wrote, “But to describe her own piece, Full Circle, she simply says, ‘Um, I’ll be sitting in a room, I’ll be breaking pots, I’ll be gluing them together again.’ And it’s fair, she’s right, that’s it… The simplicity of the work – the fact that this really is all that Sanford did, for six consecutive days – belies its extraordinary richness of associations, inhering in layers of symbolic references that are at once unmistakably specific and irrepressibly universal.”

But such fussy descriptions are themselves all part of the art of performance art – what seems to the casual eye to be rather meaningless is rendered earnestly meaningful in explanations provided by the artists themselves and their associated public relations exponents and curators.

Then, sadly, presumably-hip journalists join the fray, outdoing each other to create even deeper insights into the supposed underlying concept of the work, to the degree that their meaningful meanderings stray so far from the concept of comprehension that they too become meaningless. And perhaps that then becomes art itself.

Take for example, this excerpt from a review of Full Circle in The Advisor free newspaper. The scribe writes, “Creation of reflective space is an immediate effect of Full Circle, which is first and foremost an ephemeral work, based in a repeated process but being itself unrepeatable.

“But Full Circle does not remain entirely isolated in its unrepeatable, irreplaceable being. Photographs were taken every second, from the side and from above. Even when Amy had no audience, the camera ‘captured’ her working. These photographs will constitute another dimension to this work of art, existing alongside but never interfering with Full Circle as a performance piece.”

But despite my gripes, kudos to the Park Hyatt for showing this work, as it is an educational representation of what is being rendered now in the name of art and presumably financed by some obscure grant.

Sanford graced opening night with her presence and, it must be noted, her work certainly was a conversation piece.



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