'Another China' showcases 'silence away from industry'

'Another China' showcases 'silence away from industry'

Works created by international artists during their stay at China's

famed Lijiang Studio will be on exhibit at Phnom Penh's Meta House.

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Photo Supplied

Photo by Joybrata Sarker that will feature at the exhibition Another China.

The most recent exhibition at Meta House,  Another China, is the brainchild of two German artists, Christine Falk and Alfred Banze, who after working at China's Lijiang Studio wanted to produce a show that highlighted a China not typically seen by the West - what organisers call  "a silence away from industry".

A follow-on from the initial exhibition, which took place in Berlin last year, Another China will open tonight and will feature works created by international artists during their stints at the Lijiang Studio.

Opened in 2005 by American-born Jay Brown, Lijiang Studio is located in a farming community near Lijiang in the southwest province of Yunnan.

Being close to the borders of India, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the studio encourages cultural diversity.

"One inspiration was to make a place which was not in a conventional art scene," Brown said.

"Beijing and Shanghai have a gallery scene and now some museums too, but Lijiang is in a farming village."

Falk added: "Artists who come to the Lijiang Studio are invited to leave their work at home and go and have an impression and work with the circumstances from the village and all around".

Lijiang Studio is a pioneer in the region, with no other contemporary art being created or shown in the area.

Artists from Southeast Asia, the United States and the Netherlands who spent time at the Lijiang Studio were invited to Berlin in May 2008 to put together Another China.

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Photo Supplied

View of the couryard of Lijiang Studio.

It was the first time a Lijiang Studio exhibition was shown outside of China.

"We had shown smaller exhibitions in Beijing, but it was the first time we [organised for so many people to travel for] an exhibition," Brown said.

"It's a good communication platform. I think if you do an international exhibition, you have to bring something else that makes it more personal," Brown added.

"That's why we bring people along with the exhibition rather than have someone else put it on the wall."

The Phnom Penh exhibition

After viewing the original exhibition and meeting the curators, Meta House director Nico Mesterharm felt the rise of Chinese culture within Cambodia made Phnom Penh an ideal host for the exhibition.

"Before we opened Meta House, Lijiang Studio - before knowing us - promoted us as the new art centre through their website," Mesterharm said.

"So I knew Lijiang Studio, and I wanted to do something with them," he added.

While the first week of the exhibition will be a smaller version of the Berlin exhibition, the second week will include artists who, due to budget restrictions, were unable to feature in the original exhibition.

"We wanted to present this other kind of China, the cultural China, a China of suburbs and countryside here in Phnom Penh," Banze said.

Being in Cambodia, the curators also wanted the focus of the second week to be on the works of artists from Cambodia, China and Bangladesh who might not have much exposure.

"One of the main things was to invite new people to this project," Falk said.

One new artist who will feature in the second week is Sokuntevy Ouer, a Cambodian who in December 2008 was the first Khmer artist to work at Lijiang Studio.

"The second [week of the] exhibition will be more focused on the travel of the Chinese artists and the Cambodian artist from Lijiang on the road to Phnom Penh," Meta House art manager Lydia Parusol said.

We wanted to present this other ... china ... of suburbs and countryside.

"The presentation [to be held on Friday night on the Meta House rooftop] will be about the trip of the artists," Falk said.

"What is nice is they all travelled overland to get here, so they had an experience, and this is now the theme of our first workshop," Banze said.

"We all had very different starting points to come here together. We will make a presentation about it on [Friday] as a pre-presentation about the second [week] of the exhibition," he added.

Second anniversary

Today's opening is taking place in conjunction with the second anniversary of Meta House.

"We opened our house for artists who needed a platform. Initially, we were only opened two days [per week], and then it became popular," Mesterharm said.

"People became fond of us, so more and more artists came. From opening my house to artists as a kind of hobby, it turned into a professional art centre," he added.

But Mesterharm sees the role of Meta House as not just a gallery, but also a place to help foster and grow local talent.

"Most of them [Cambodian artists] have never been abroad and are not exposed to what is happening in the neighbouring countries," Mesterharm said.

"So before we even think about sending them to Europe or the US, we like to give them the possibility to go and check [the region] out themselves," he added.

Another China will open at 7pm today at Meta House. 

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