Cambodia's 'still waters' run deep

Cambodia's 'still waters' run deep

An exhibit opening at the Bophana Centre on Friday represents a collective artistic meditation on the vital role water plays in modern Cambodian history

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Flowers Less – Less Flowers, above, by Ouk Chim Vichet. At right, preparations for the “Still Water” exhibit near an end at Bophana Centre on Wednesday.

WHEN artist Tith Veasna decided on a theme for a new art exhibit, she asked some 16 artists to reflect on water and its role in modern Cambodian society.

The result was "Still Water", which opens Friday at the Bophana Centre in Phnom Penh.

Comprising 20 works, the exhibit represents the collective thoughts of the artists, each of whom addressed the issue of the presence - and disappearance - of "still water" in Phnom Penh.

"The exhibition is about the environment, pollution, modernity and the disappearance of Phnom Penh's once-abundant array of still water," Tith Veasna, curator of the exhibit, told the Post Wednesday.

The question Tith Veasna posed to artists was: "How does still water affect human life?"

She drew inspiration for the project from reflecting over time on the rapid disappearance of still water sources from the capital - victims of rapid and aggressive development projects.

"How can Phnom Penh survive on just one dirty river if all our lakes have been filled in?" Tith Veasna asked.

Sculptor Ouk Chim Vichet contributed two pieces to the exhibit constructed out of old machine guns. He chose the chouk flower as his theme for one of the pieces, which he titled Flowers Less - Less Flowers.

The chouk, or lotus, flower was once in abundant supply on the surface of Phnom Penh's lakes, Tith Veasna said. "Now, they can't be found anywhere."


Artist Mao Soveit has used her contribution to the "Still Water" exhibit to express his concern for the plight of Cambodia's rural poor.

"People who don't care about the poor are coming in and destroying their resources, destroying happy families," Mao Soveit said.

The exhibit's theme is timely, as a controversial development project begun last year continues with the reclamation of the capital's Boeung Kak lake.

Dredgers began filling in the lake in August, and the 133-hectare project, include dual commercial and residential developments, is expected to lead to the eviction of a total of 4,000 lakeside families.

Artist Tong Soprach's contribution to the exhibit includes two photographs that illustrate the changes at Boeung Kak Lake since 1990.

The first image shows the artist as a young man of 14 standing beside the lake, with the Ministry of Interior rising in the background. In the second image, two French tamarind trees on the horizon are the only recognizable feature left.

"After watching many public spaces and parks being sold in Phnom Penh, we hope that Boueng Kak Lake will still be a great place to relax and have fun for the general population," said Tong Soprach.

"Still Water" opens Friday at the Bophana Centre (No 64, Street 200) and runs until April 30.


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