Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - String theory: Art’s meaning left to float




String theory: Art’s meaning left to float

Panharith Ean and fellow architecture student Greg Jimmie are fascinated by the idea of ephemeral art. Photo supplied
Panharith Ean and fellow architecture student Greg Jimmie are fascinated by the idea of ephemeral art. Photo supplied

String theory: Art’s meaning left to float

There’s something in the air at 1961 Coworking and Art Space. Opening tonight, Something Floating is an installation created by two architecture students that sets out to explore space, story and dialogue, and bring the viewer across the threshold into a sort of authorship of the work. 

Panharith Ean and Greg Jimmie met at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where they found shared curiosities about the role of architecture in storytelling and the transient, situational nature of installation art.

Growing out of a project they did together during their undergraduate course, Something Floating has taken them four months to create, before boxing it up and bringing it to Cambodia. 

In their piece, 1,250 laser-cut letters hanging on 1,250 transparent strings are organised to form part of the conversation recounted in the Antoine de Saint Expury novel The Little Prince between the eponymous hero and the geographer. That conversation explores the value of permanent geographical features – mountains, oceans, deserts – against the relative unimportance of a fleeting flower, condemned for its impermanence. 

The architect-artists take this to another level though, as even the seemingly solid installation is itself open to interpretation by the viewer; its very meaning floats in the air between the work and the viewer. 

“Both the permanent and ephemeral are real, they just have a different category of values,” said Ean while setting up the work this week. “It’s like the difference between fiction and non-fiction. They are both valuable, though they give different types of information. 

“The ephemeral and fleeting work is like a live performance, you can’t take it home with you. Its significance depends very much on the idea of you being present”.

Playing with that idea, the work invites viewers to take up different positions and poses, and depending on this, their mood and perhaps the principles that are most important to them, different words reveal themselves from among the medley of letters. Viewers virtually write their own version of what they see.  

“This was our ambition. We want people who come to see it to take authorship and write it their own way; to create their own kind of story,” said Ean. 

The 23-year-old is back in Cambodia to visit family and friends before returning to the US to start his master’s this August. 

Loven Ramos, co-owner of 1961, enjoys this melding of fine art and architectural precepts, and sees no real distinction between the two. “They have merged,” he said. “Architecture is an artistic expression and has much more relevance now, it’s like creating a huge sculpture.”

Ean, 23, agrees. “Art and architecture are merging,” he said. “Architecture is art with function. It’s not such a black and white distinction. There is a middle ground, an interconnectedness between the two.”

Something Floating opens at 7pm at 1961 tonight, and runs until June 8.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Phnom Penh underpass opens to ease traffic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced a temporary opening of the 488m underpass at the Chaom Chao roundabout in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, which was recently completed to connect traffic from National Road 4 to Russian Federation Blvd. The move is to reduce

  • ‘No chance Cambodia booted out of ASEAN’

    A group of former and current Cambodian diplomats on Tuesday fired back at retired Singaporean diplomat Bihalari Kausikan after he proposed that ASEAN dismiss Cambodia and Laos from the bloc. In an open letter, the Cambodian diplomats said Kausikan’s remarks were made from a

  • Woman seeks answers after arrest of American partner

    Filipina Lalaine de Guzman, 48, is demanding answers for the detention of her American partner by Cambodian immigration officers after he was arrested at their home almost 90 days ago. She said without an arrest warrant or proffering any criminal charges, Stephen Sidney Greatsinger, 56, is being detained

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital