The annual Our City Festival, which focuses on ‘urbanism and its influence on contemporary culture,’ is coming to Siem Reap for the first time. The festival, originally founded in Phnom Penh in 2008 by Dana Langlois, owner of JavaArts and Java Café and Gallery, is now in its sixth year and is expanding to include Temple Town and Battambang, as well as Phnom Penh.
Co-curating for Siem Reap are Sasha Constable and artist Oun Savann, also art curators for Park Hyatt Siem Reap.
“I think because the festival’s been growing and been very successful. Dana decided she’d like to extend it to Battambang and Siem Reap, these other two art centres,” Constable says. “It’s just trying to really link all the arts together around the country, rather than always being focused on Phnom Penh or Siem Reap separately.”
According to Constable, the concept of Our City is to explore people’s reactions to urbanism and that can come in a variety of mediums – be it painting, sculpture, performance or to do with architecture.
“It can be an idea related to a particular space or building,” she says. “We’ve had a number of things – one of them is to try and beautify the waste-bins in town, to try and encourage people to put their waste away. To make them artistic so it actually brings people’s attention to them and hopefully will mean that they put their waste away.
“It can be someone’s reaction to something that needs to be done in town. We’ve got another potential project which is to do with disability access which I think could be quite interesting. They are hoping to do some research around Siem Reap to see how easy it is and which buildings – hotels, public spaces – to access with wheelchairs. And that hopefully will be more of a public awareness thing in that maybe architects in the future will take disability into account as well.”
Constable says there is a plan to include some interactive items, where the public can be involved with the installation or artwork.
The Siem Reap team is in the process of going through proposals and selecting the creatives and organisations who will take part.
“Hopefully we’re going to be working with a few NGOs too, who are working on a particular theme,” she says. “It’s quite exciting in that way because we’re not really sure what’s going to be proposed and where we’re going to actually show the work as well.
“Hopefully we’ll have the FCC as a venue, the Hyatt will be involved definitely, and possibly the Royal Garden park on the river if we have performances.”
She adds that The Centre of Khmer Studies in Wat Damnak, McDermott Galleries, and Hotel 1961 are all potential partners.
The organisers plan to hold Our City Siem Reap over the Chinese New Year weekend from January 31 to February 2, 2014, and stagger the festivals in each of the three cities.
“Dana was thinking it would work better if Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang were separate so there could be a focus on each city,” Constable says. “So Phnom Penh is January 16-23, Siem Reap hopefully the end of that month and Battambang the weekend after that.”