Images of city’s ‘development’

Images of city’s ‘development’


Stepping into the Sa Sa Bassac gallery, a visitor would need their wits about them to avoid colliding into the fence that seals off two-thirds of the room’s space.


Set against cream walls and the grating hum of fluorescent lights, this vaguely menacing edifice instantly makes the rest of the gallery feel claustrophobic.

Any curiosity it arouses is dashed soon after: the walls are too high to peek overhead, and there is no way around.

Whatever lies behind is a mystery; the only thing left is a stretch of metal, hiving away what was once land freely explored.

So begins the immersion into Wrapped Future, a project by 24-year-old Prey Veng native Lim Sokchanlina to chronicle Phnom Penh’s runaway development and rapidly changing landscape.

Over the last three years, Lim has photographed the opaque construction fences cluttering the city’s horizon.

In the process, he has managed to highlight the rapid erasure of its past and the uncertainties of its future.

The exhibition strikes a mournful note with its oblique references to the traumatic and often violent evictions that have blighted Cambodia’s urban landscape in recent years.

The centrepiece depicts the pale blue barrier that sealed off the site of the Dey Krahorm building in the weeks after the eviction of its tenants, while another photo shows the construction fence erected to seal off the Borei Keila site from the public after the demolition of residents buildings there.

In other places, Lim Sokchanlina laments the loss of architectural icons, with sparse renderings of the fences that seal off the colonial-era Ministry of Tourism building at the intersection of Sisowath Quay and Sothearos Boulevard, and the site of the former National Theatre, designed by Cambodia’s pre-eminent architect Vann Molyvann.

Lim Sokchanlina is a photographer talented beyond his years, and has once again demonstrated his morbid fascination at the country’s rapid economic development and its contested legacy.

Though his walls provoke curiosity about the nature of their hidden contents, they are also beautiful objects in themselves, however maudlin at times.

Each of them has a story to tell, sometimes promising and sometimes baleful, and it is through the images that Lim Sokchanlina poses questions which have never been answered to satisfaction: to what end the encroachment of private property on the city’s public treasures?

When the new once again displaces the old and the walls are torn down, how many of Phnom Penh’s residents will still be on the outside, unable to see in?

Wrapped Future will be on display at Sa Sa Bassac Gallery, #18 Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, until Sunday, April 1. Opening times are Thursday-Friday 2-6pm and Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm.


  • Hun Sen rejects ‘rift’ rumours spread by ‘stupid gangsters’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday denied a “rift” among top leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and rejected claims that Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were set to be removed from their positions as rumours spread by “gangsters”.

  • Huge 3.5-tonne ivory haul seized in capital

    Working with US officials, Phnom Penh Autonomous Port has uncovered almost 3.5 tonnes of elephant ivory hidden in a container, the US Embassy in Cambodia said on Facebook on Saturday. A tip-off provided to the General Department of Customs and Excise by a US Fish and

  • EU ambassador to Cambodia: Rights a ‘work in progress’

    The EU ambassador to Cambodia has called human rights “a work in progress” and said the 28-nation bloc has “carefully” noted last week’s statement by the government on taking further steps to strengthen democracy and the political sphere in the Kingdom. The EU marked

  • Assembly passes amendment to Political Party Law Article 45

    The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved a proposed amendment to Article 45 of the Law on Political Parties in a move that could pave the way for former senior opposition leaders banned for five years to return to the political stage. As expected, the 115 ruling