Our Atlantis

Loven Ramos, a Filipino painter, photographer, designer and poet based in Siem Reap City, wants viewers to imagine themselves as archaeologists a thousand years from now when confronting the objects in his latest exhibition.

Titled “Atlantis 2.0” and opening on Saturday at Siem Reap City’s 1961 Coworking and Art Space, which Mr. Ramos runs, the exhibit imagines how future generations will view our current lives, using everyday objects in vaguely futuristic settings.

An installation from ‘Atlantis 2.0’ (Loven Ramos)
An installation from ‘Atlantis 2.0’ (Loven Ramos)

With most of the objects submerged in tanks of water, the exhibit is meant to communicate the rise and fall of civilizations over time, and how future civilizations might perceive what we have created in the 21st century.

“How are they going to look back at us? How will they see our lives?” Mr. Ramos said in an interview on Tuesday.

“Atlantis 2.0” features objects from cans of Coca-Cola to laptops to high-heeled shoes. Macbooks are covered in sand and seashells, cameras are immersed in water with iridescent fish swimming around them, and selfie sticks are surrounded by crustaceans.

Most of the artifacts are made of aluminum, plastic and metal—materials that can withstand the elements. “I’m looking at stuff that tends to last a long time,” Mr. Ramos said.

The artist also chose items that say something about the contradictions he sees around him.

Coca-Cola, for example, is wildly popular in a society that seems obsessed with physical beauty.

“We’re very wasteful, but we also love sugary drinks that are high in calories…but then we’re trying to lose weight,” he said. “So it’s about the ironies that we live through.”

Another symbolic item for Mr. Ramos is the selfie stick, or what he called the “vanity stick.”

“This is a really funny invention in our generation. It shows how vain we are and how we are trying hard to capture our own image and encapsulate it into something,” he said.

With the world facing the uncertainty caused by global warming, Mr. Ramos decided to sink almost everything in water. “Our land mass will soon be submerged in water, and there’s always changes in our climate. It’s a fact of life,” he said. “I think we are going back to the water. Our dire ambitions lead us back to the bottom of the sea.”

Originally from the Philippines, Mr. Ramos moved to Cambodia in 2005 as a graphic designer for a hotel in Siem Reap. Today he works as an artist and freelance designer while managing the 1961 Coworking and Art Space, a former hotel that he has transformed into a space for artists and others with creative ambitions.

Over the years, his interest in history and archaeology has increasingly influenced his artwork. “Atlantis 2.0” was inspired by his many visits to the Angkor Archaeological Park and conversations with his archaeologist friends about civilizations through history.

“A thousand years from now, people from the next few generations are going to do the same thing. They’re going to look at our lives as a relic of the past,” he said.

By asking people to step away from the present and place themselves in the future, Mr. Ramos hopes to give visitors to his gallery a new perspective on the world around them.

“It’s a future looking into the past, into the future,” he said. “This is it. We are living it. We’re living the now, in the future.”

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