FIELDS: an itinerant inquiry across the kingdom of Cambodia

FIELDS: an itinerant inquiry across the kingdom of Cambodia

ST PAUL St Gallery at AUT University

Albert Samreth, Michael Ray-Von, 2013.
December 2, 2013
FIELDS: an itinerant inquiry across the kingdom of Cambodia

2–22 December 2013

“What is found here is elsewhere. What is not found here is nowhere else.”
–Mahabharata, The Book of The Beginning

FIELDS brings artists and curators to Cambodia to engage contemporary ritual practice. The 20-day nomadic itinerary is a proposal that traverses space, temporality, and culture through a politics of memory, inheritance, and tradition by performing a cartography that informs and alters its references. The nation’s agrarian landscape, the fieldwork of anthropologists and aid workers, Buddhist notions of merit-fields, the psycho-geographical landscape referred to as the Killing Fields, and the history of art practices in the expanded field all serve as starting points.

A story does not have a beginning until one has been assigned to it. FIELDS’ itinerary begins by merging the sacred and the profane, facilitating the virtual effect on the actual, pedagogy and action-praxis. We begin in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh with a series of establishing sakasalas, or workshops: on language and epigraphy at the Buddhist Institute, on colonial audiovisual archives at Bophana Resource Center, and an analog political history mapping exercise at a karaoke club. On the road to Siem Reap we wander the deserted Udong, Cambodia’s pre-colonial royal capital. In Siem Reap, we participate in the three-day conference on special topics in Khmer studies entitled “Don’t Abandon the Indirect Road: Divergent Approaches to Cambodian Visual Cultures.” Exploration in and around Angkor includes visits with guardians of the main repository of categorized stone remnants; archeologists of a recently discovered ancient bronze-casting artisan workshop; scholars of Buddhist temple narratives and iconography; itinerant painters responsible for the temple’s west wall depictions of hell; and practitioners of sak yant, or yantra tatooing. We overnight with the floating village community of Kompong Pluk on the Tonle Sap Lake for a night of films by Charlie Chaplin, the archetype for Cambodian comedians. We drive to the highland regions of Mondulkiri, home to the indigenous Bunong where we will be guided in daily works and ritual ceremony for four days. On the road back to Phnom Penh, we stop in Memot to walk the hills of Iron Age circular earthworks. Our return to Phnom Penh traces a series of urban legends including architect Vann Molyvann’s Independence-era iconic works; the award winning fiction writer behind the Khmer translations of Beyonce; and the Documentation Center of Cambodia whose mantra is “searching for the truth.” Our ending is not an ending.

The residency’s peripatetic and multidisciplinary nature is intentionally associative with tensions around modes of colonial exploration, exoticism, and contemporary tourism. FIELDS operates from the space of these tensions to reconfigure ideas of knowledge exchange and the stratified roles that inform this kind of cultural exchange. Our map of meetings and site visits will reconstitute practices of fieldwork—not the study of the other but a collaborative pedagogy rooted in mutualism. Owned by neither guest nor host, the FIELDS proposal acts on the intra-personal and the transformative. A number of individual and collective projects will result from FIELDS, including a publication planned for 2014.

From New Zealand: Charlotte Huddleston, Vera Mey, Janita Craw, Alex Monteith, Luke Willis Thompson; from Cambodia: Albert Samreth, Erin Gleeson, Khvay Samnang, Amy Lee Sanford, Lim Sokchanlina, Tith Kanitha; from Australia: Roger Nelson; from Denmark: Tue Greenfort; from Germany: Ute Meta Bauer, Julia Moritz; from Romania: Anca Rujoiu; from Taiwan: Fang-Tse Hsu; from Thailand: Arin Runjung

Project Coordinator: Chum Chanveasna
Design: Albert Samreth

FIELDS is a collaborative project of ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland, and SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh, and is curated by Erin Gleeson and Vera Mey. Generous support comes from the School of Art + Design, AUT University; School of Education, AUT University; NICAI, University of Auckland; and the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

ST PAUL St Gallery is a non-collecting gallery based within the School of Art + Design at AUT University, Auckland. ST PAUL St Gallery embraces one of the primary instructions for universities in the New Zealand Education Act (1984), that they “accept a role as critic and conscience of society.”

SA SA BASSAC is a gallery, reading room and resource center dedicated to curating, mediating and archiving contemporary visual culture and projects in and from Cambodia.

For more information please contact Charlotte Huddleston, T +64 9 921 9999 x 6820 /[email protected].



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ST PAUL St Gallery at AUT University
December 2, 2013

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