Footprints of Yantra Man
28 August–20 September 2015
Opening: 27 August, 7pm
Kottbusser Strasse 10
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 2–7pm
Khvay Samnang (b. 1982 in Svay Rieng, lives and works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia) holds a grant by KfW Stiftung for the International Studio Programme at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin and will be finishing his residency by showcasing his current project.
Khvay’s multidisciplinary practice offers new views on historic and current events, as well as on traditional cultural rituals using humorous symbolic gestures. In his performances, videos, and photographs, he focuses on the humanitarian and ecological impacts of colonialism and globalization, primarily on the issues of expropriation and unrestrained growth in Cambodia.
In his installation Footprints of Yantra Man at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, the artist uses for the first time sculpture and drawings: a life-size metal armour, long panels of red cloth, and a giant cotton string bound with metal plates are each patterned by the artist with various elements referring to political and personal histories between Europe and Cambodia, spirituality and superstition, and power and war. The engravings are inspired by sacred drawings (yantra) and tattoos (sak yant) are each used traditionally in Southeast Asia to bestow magical power and protection, while the cotton string (katha) points to traditional Hindu amulets worn on the body for the same purpose. Khvay uses these elements of the Cambodian belief system as subtle gestures of resistance against continuing histories of colonial domination and oppression, but also as tongue-in-cheek attributes of the artist’s body, whose measurements and traces are within each work. Khmer soldiers, who fought for France against Germany in World War I, received such blessings from their families before they went to war; the artist himself got them from his family before leaving for Berlin.
Khvay Samnang is a founding member of Stiev Selapak, an art collective dedicated to reappraising and remembering Cambodian history and exploring continuities in visual practices disrupted by civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime. In 2010/11, Stiev Selapak set up two nonprofit art spaces in Phnom Penh: Sa Sa Art Projects, for experimental residencies, knowledge-sharing, and community-based programs; and SA SA BASSAC, a gallery, resource center, and reading room.
A catalogue of the exhibition is available: edited by Nicola Müllerschön and Christoph Tannert, Khvay Samnang: The Land Beneath My Feet includes an essay by Brianne Cohen and an interview by Hendrik Folkerts. Published by Verlag Kettler (Dortmund), 2015.
Promoting cultural diversity is one of the primary goals of KfW Stiftung, Frankfurt. Together with the cultural centre Künstlerhaus Bethanien, it has set up an artist-in-residence program that seeks to stimulate intercultural dialogue by providing up-and-coming artists from Latin America, Africa, and Asia with the opportunity to spend 12 months in Berlin. Besides encouraging artistic production and critical reflection, the program facilitates encounters between those working in arts and culture. The infrastructure and the international environment of the cultural center offer a suitable setting, allowing participants to try out new ideas, engage in debates, and carry out projects.
For more information, please contact
Dr. Nicola Müllerschön, Programme Manager Arts and Culture, KfW Stiftung, Frankfurt: nicola.muellerschoen [at] kfw-stiftung.de
Valeria Schulte-Fischedick, International Studio Programme, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin: schultef [at] bethanien.de