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Art show aims for convivialism converts

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(From left to right) Exhibition collaborators Harry Mann, Adana Mam-Legros and Raphael Montha Pech pose along with Daniel Eagn (photographer), Stephane Hibon (videographer) and Ken Bo (photographer). SUPPLIED

Art show aims for convivialism converts

Throughout the course of the pandemic, artist and activist Adana Mam-Legros and her organisation Generation C – which she is president and co-founder of – have been actively uplifting people and issuing a wakeup call to society by talking about the things that really matter in the world from complementarity to compassion, consciousness, empathy, the art of sharing, mental health, empowering women and more.

Adana will be leaving Cambodia for Europe at the beginning of 2022, but she’s doing one last exhibition before she goes called ConvivArt that highlights the philosophy of convivialism and the “art of better living together”.

The philosophy of convivialism has its roots in 19th century France, but in the modern context the term and the ideas associated with it largely stem from Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich’s 1973 book Tools for Conviviality. Today, convivialism is championed by thinkers like the French sociologist Alain Caille who published The Second Convivialist Manifesto: Towards a Post-Neoliberal World in 2020 and the Degrowth movement that attempts to fight the tendency towards overconsumption by modern civilisation.

“Today, our world is sliding into a totally dystopian society. One of the solutions should be cultivating the ‘Art of Better Living Together’. Our ongoing crisis is an alarm going off for humanity telling us that it’s time to wake up. We have to stop dreaming and start building a new future that is ethical and responsible,” Adana tells The Post.

“Convivialism is a philosophy, a way of living, addressing all human beings without any particular specification or orientation. This message is international and can be understood by all cultures and people. The objective of this event is to encourage youths to be ‘convivial citizens’ who are both introspective and united together socially,” Adana says.

ConvivArt is a mixed media art exhibition and a collaboration between Adana and the French-Cambodian photographer Raphael Montha Pech along with the architectural design company Future.

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Adana’s paintings in the show (left) have a surreal quality to them and are based on the principles of the convivialist philosophy while Pech’s photos (right) are vivid portraits of Riverside’s Khmer vendors. SUPPLIED

This event will also include a virtual exhibition that showcases 13 artists from different disciplines, including dancers, painters, poets and singers from nine different countries: Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia and the US.

ConvivArt held a conference in association with the exhibition with guest speakers including Venerable Kou Sopheap, deputy country director of Wildlife Alliance Vibol Neth and director of ICS-SP Chhay Vivoldin.

The ConvivArt exhibition is on display at The Commune from December 11 until January 15, 2022. With a goal of taking the exhibition’s message global, Future has built a virtual exhibition with a 3D gallery that is available online with 11 artists showing their works.

Adana says that she always looks for ways to translate her activism into her art and to speak out on certain social issues. With her organisation Generation C, she aims to build a society with responsible and ethical citizens.

The ConvivArt exhibition is conceptually based on six values from the convivialist movement: The principles of common naturality, common humanity, common sociality, legitimate individuation, creative opposition and the imperative to control vanity or hubris.

Adana is showing six of her own artworks at ConvivArt, with each of them portraying one of these values of the convivialist philosophy to allow viewers to begin to understand and consider different aspects of convivialism.

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Contemporary dance/theatre performance during the opening of the ConvivArt exhibition. SUPPLIED

“One of my artworks, Human Rouge, illustrates the principle of common naturality which implies that ‘humans do not live outside of nature and are not its masters or possessors’. Instead, like all living beings, they are part of it and are interdependent with it. They have a responsibility to take care of it. If they do not respect it, it is their ethical and physical survival that is at risk,” she says.

The title Human Rouge is in reference to the sixth known mass extinction event in Earth’s history, sometimes called the Anthropocene extinction, which is currently taking place according to some scientists and thinkers who point to the ongoing loss of biodiversity due to human activities.

Raphael Montha Pech’s portraits of Khmer in his series depicting Cambodia’s informal street vendors are his contribution to the exhibition. These photos illustrate the principle of common sociality which is a reminder that humanity’s greatest wealth is the richness of its relationships.

“The Riverside series is dedicated to all informal street hustlers. Shining a light on invisible lives was the main goal when we decided to honour and document the Riverside street vendors. It’s been such an amazing moment of conviviality, respect, and sharing.

“I would like to thank Adana Mam Legros and Generation C for this opportunity and invitation to exhibit this artwork and of course our photo subjects. This series wouldn’t have been the same without the help of amazing humanists like Greg Mo, Stephane Hibon and Kimsean Sun who joined me on Riverside to help make it come true. We will be back in five years to continue our work,” Raphael tells The Post.

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Musical performance at the opening of the ConvivArt exhibition. SUPPLIED

Harry Mann – founder and director of Future – tells The Post that he chose six architectural projects to display that each represent a value from convivialism.

“The simple principle to associate with so many projects is common naturality, with a massive trend in the architecture of biophilia. However, the principles of common sociality and hubris control were more complicated. We had to look at environments where our architecture was designed to create community interaction and at the same individuality.

“This is showcased in office projects particularly, where we try to design offices that engage with and create a dialogue between users. In the case of hubris control, we looked at how massive development projects have the obligation to still be sustainable and considerate to their context,” says Harry.

At the preparation phase of this exhibition, Adana had the idea to ask the artists located internationally to host simultaneous art exhibitions in their own countries with the exhibition here in Phnom Penh as the focal point.

After contacting the artists, she realised that it was too complicated a task for them to organise an exhibition in their country on short notice, so she decided to do a virtual exhibition as her way to facilitate the event and bring international visibility.

“Challenges to organising virtual exhibitions are also tremendous. The first is to have a network of artists all around the world and I am lucky to be connected to some of them. The second challenge is communication. I mostly choose thematics that are hard to explain, especially through painting. Future designed all of the virtual events, and that was a huge job to do that,” says Adana.

The exhibition opening was very well attended despite many other exhibitions taking place around Phnom Penh. Adana says they decided to reduce the number of visitors at once, taking into account Covid restrictions. Around 60 people were at the venue for the opening and were given opportunities to ask questions about convivialism and the art of living together.

In early 2022, Adana plans to live in Europe and visit the US to internationalise her art and the Generation C Movement, while also hoping to bring more visibility to Cambodia.

“I’m planning to exhibit in big European cities, not only with the ambition to become a well-known Khmer artist but also to auto-finance my movement with art sales. My next exhibitions will be in London and Paris,” she says.

Her goal is to expand the Generation C movement into Europe and collaborate with existing movements to organise an international think tank in Switzerland. With the help of her father – who’s a Generation C co-founder – they hope to share their vision and extend their network in Europe.

The second near-term objective is to gather experts from different fields and nationalities to draft a plan of action related to the future of the planet and how people can initiate a paradigm shift towards an empathic civilisation, says Adana.

The ConvivArt exhibition runs through January 15 at The Commune located at #15 St 347 in Tuol Kork district. The virtual ConvivArt exhibition is online at: 3d.future-thoughts.com/aolt/

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