Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An artist explores ‘instinct’

An artist explores ‘instinct’

Artist Tith Kanitha next to one of her untitled sculptures for her new exhibition Instinct.
Artist Tith Kanitha next to one of her untitled sculptures for her new exhibition Instinct. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

An artist explores ‘instinct’

In the white-walled exhibition room of Sa Sa Bassac gallery lives, for the time being, a collection of amorphous wire sculptures, hanging from the walls and ceiling, or draped over pedestals, as part of a solo show by Tith Kanitha, which opens tonight.

Though it is called Instinct, the show is untitled in Khmer, Kanitha’s native language. The reason for that, the 30-year-old says, is because there simply isn’t a proper translation in the Cambodian language.

“When I open the old Chuon Nath dictionary I find the word ‘saphea veak’, which means ‘the original form of nature’,” she says, referring to a widely used Khmer dictionary. For Kanitha, that translation is not satisfactory, and the search for understanding of the concept is at the heart of her show.

“What is instinct?” she asks. “Is it the instinct to survive?”

Kanitha, who, in addition to her sculpture, has been involved in several performances and film projects over the past few years, says she first learned the word in English back in 2013 at a residency in New York City for Cambodian artists at which she was told: “follow your instincts”. Since then she has toyed with the concept.

“It keeps changing . . . It can be a concept without form,” she says. Shaping that form is what she has attempted with her sculptures.

“In front of you it’s just wire. How is it instinct?”

The answer may be in Kanitha’s process, which involved hundreds of hours of winding nearly 60 spools of steel wire around a copper rod into tight spring-like filaments.

“It’s like a meditation . . . I stay in one place while my brain is working,” she says, adding that in those hours her mind would ponder moral and social questions.

“Why are we [Cambodians] living like this? Everyone is corrupt, [so] why have we adapted to this attitude of everyone just hurting everyone?” she says she asked herself.

As she let herself think, she would assemble the wire tendrils into shapes, made without a plan – only instinct. It’s up to the audience, she says, to question what the sculptures mean.

“I’m challenging the audience that if you don’t question your instinct, maybe you forgot [what it is].”

Instinctopens tonight at Sa Sa Bassac at 6pm and runs through April 26. Free admission.

MOST VIEWED

  • Breaking: US House passes 'Cambodia Democracy Act'

    The US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, on Monday, passed the “HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act”, also known as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. If signed off by the president, the bill will allow two major sets of action to be taken against high-ranking Cambodian

  • ‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

    Minister of Tourism Thong Khon has blamed “zero-dollar” tour operators for the decrease in foreign tourists to Angkor Archaeological Park in the first half of this year and has called for action against them. Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half

  • Some jobs off limits to foreigners from August

    Beginning from the second week of August, foreigners will be banned from driving taxis and tuk-tuks, as well as being motorcycle delivery drivers, street food vendors, hairdressers and product distributors among other lower-income jobs. Some white-collar jobs such as the head of human resources will

  • Breaking: Rubbish found packed inside 83 containers at S'ville port

    Eighty-three containers packed with rubbish were broken open at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port by joint authorities on Tuesday. The origin of the containers has yet to be ascertained, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. Pheaktra, who is also the ministry’s secretary of state, said