Cambodian Artist Invited to Europe’s Prestigious ‘Documenta’ Event

Documenta, one of Europe’s most prestigious arts events, announced on Thursday that Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang will be among 150 contemporary artists taking part in the show opening in Athens on Saturday and moving to Kassel, Germany, on June 10.

“In an exhibition that is so concerned with histories and politics of land in various parts of the world, Samnang provided an invaluable perspective from the Cambodian and Southeast Asian context,” said Hendrik Folkerts, one of the show’s curators, said in a release issued on Thursday.

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Nget Rady in a still from Khvay Samnang’s video installation. (Khvay Samnang)

The artist, whose work never fails to intrigue, spent 16 months conceiving “Preah Konlong,” or “The Way of the Spirit,” his series of sculptures for the show.

During numerous trips to the Areng Valley and the Chiphat community in Koh Kong province to experience what remains of the rainforest and spend time with the indigenous Chong people, he created 11 animal sculptures fashioned out of vines usually used to weave fish traps.

“Samnang formed a small team of weavers to construct sculptures of eleven different animals,” the release said.

Mr. Samnang will exhibit the sculptures in Athens and present in Kassel a multichannel video installation featuring Cambodian dancer Nget Rady performing in the Areng Valley wearing masks that are part of the exhibit. Mr. Rady trained in the Khmer masked-dance Lakhaon Khaol.

Dancer Nget Rady in a scene from Khvay Samnangs video. Photo Khvay Samnang
Dancer Nget Rady in a scene from Khvay Samnang’s video. (Khvay-Samnang)

As the release mentions, Mr. Samnang wanted to learn about the beliefs and lifestyle of the Chong people at a time when their forest environment is threatened by development projects.

The artist, who studied at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and is now in his mid-30s, has previously made the plight of indigenous people about to lose their land and way of life a subject of his work.

In 2014 in Phnom Penh, his installation “Rubber Man,” which consisted of a film and sculptures, looked at how Ratanakkiri province’s indigenous people lost their land and lifestyle to development and deforestation.

This 14th edition of Documenta, which is held every five years, ends on September 17.

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