Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Art exhibition seeks to start a conversation



Art exhibition seeks to start a conversation

Full Circle in an exhibition in Java. " />

Art exhibition seeks to start a conversation

130130 17a
Artist Amy Lee Sanford in Container Port, a still from one of her video performance pieces, on show at Java Arts from tonight, Jan. 30, 2013. Photograph: Roger Nelson/Phnom Penh Post

Just under a year ago, Phnom Penh-based artist Amy Lee Sanford sat cross-legged under a spotlight in the exhibition space of Meta House, surrounded by a circle of 40 terracotta vessels.

Each pot was moulded and fired in her late father’s home province of Kampong Chhnang, and over six days Sanford – with steely concentration – shattered all of them, collected the fragments and then carefully glued and strung the pieces back together.

The performance was titled Full Circle and was in some ways a cathartic experience for the 40-year-old artist, symbolic of her experience as an American-raised Cambodian struggling with notions of identity and the trauma of losing her father and most of her family in the Khmer Rouge regime.

During the Lon Nol reign, Sanford’s father, a well-known academic, sensed the pending danger he and his daughter faced. With his Swedish-American wife, Barbara already having fled to the US, the artist’s father arranged to have the then two-year-old Sanford also sent back to the US to be raised by her step-mother.

Nine months later, Khmer Rouge soldiers marched into Phnom Penh and Sanford would never see her father again.

The US-raised artist grew up believing all of her family had been killed, and it was only until 2004 that she discovered she still had relatives in Kampong Chhnang province. She returned to Cambodia in 2005, a visit that later spurred her to return for good.

Tonight, Sanford, who graduated in engineering as well as visual arts, will show variations on her sculptural theme in 40 Pots + 4 Sketches, an exhibition at Java Arts.

The show will see the artist move between the mediums of performance and installation, and represents a step towards a “conversation” between herself and the audience, says Java Arts curator Dana Langlois.

“Amy comes from an object-based focus, working in ceramics, sculpture and installations, so there was a huge shift for her moving into a performance work.”

Sanford made that shift by recreating the vase-breaking ritual, spontaneously, in public spaces: on dusty footpaths in Siem Reap and the heaving streets of Phnom Penh.

Four video recordings of these performances will be shown at tonight’s exhibition.

“The original was very specific and rhythmic whereas this new process was experimental – testing her endurance in the heat,” Langlois says.

Sanford herself says she needed time to digest her original Full Circle performance.

“In my art process, reflection requires a fair bit of mental distance from the work, whether the work be sculptural, performance, or some combination,” she says.

Staying calm during the video recordings of the vase breaking was particularly challenging.

“The internal mental process of breaking and repairing a pot became extremely public and external. That change was a big challenge. Between the noise, people, weather and adrift physical debris, it was challenging to retain a focus on the basic task at hand.”

The delicate pots were statements on a number of issues Cambodia faces, she says.

“[The pots] can be seen as symbolic of the trauma that Cambodia, individually and [as a society], has endured, [but] not limited to that.

“They’re also representative of the process of change... how quickly situations can change, and how labour intensive it is to repair [trauma].”

40 Pots + 4 Sketches opens tonight at Java Arts at 6.30pm.

To contact the reporter on this story: Claire Knox at [email protected]
 

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and