Cambodian performance artist brings controversial work on identity and diaspora to Seattle

The articulated monk-saffron-colored tube winds through Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAM Asian)’s glass hall as part of the “Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence” exhibit by Anida Yoeu Ali. It is the first time the entire “Buddhist Bug” has ever been shown inside a museum and Ali is the first Cambodian artist to be given a solo show at SAM Asian since their building renovations.

Ali looks upon the Bug and her other creation, “The Red Chador,” as entities in their own right, with fluid gender, and with separate identity from herself, though part of herself. When she talks about the full 100 meters of the Bug winding through the museum, for instance, she says, “The Bug ‘decided’ to take up a lot more space [than usual].” When she talks about the Bug or the Red Chador, Ali calls them “she” and describes, especially the Chador, as having its own life.

“They’re all semi-autobiographical,” Ali explained to the Asian Weekly. “There’s a part of me in them. It’s not separable, but at the same time each one requires an extra layer of courage, or visualizing, before live performance what these personas would do. Yes, Anida the artist is beneath the chador having these experiences, but at the same time, the outside public’s perceiving a much more regal entity larger than life presence of a person that is not just the artist.”

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