Phnom Penh’s Urbanization Showcased in New Exhibit

Artist Kong Vollak’s fascination with Phnom Penh’s urbanization is reflected in much of his creative work to date.

“The buildings are coming up fast; this made me think about the consequences and the relationships humans will have with them,” said the 28-year-old—who received a scholarship to study at Phnom Penh’s Royal University of Fine Arts—at the opening to his latest piece of work on Friday.

Mr Vollak’s newest expression is portrayed in his “Humanbuild” in­stallation that opened to viewers at Sa Sa Bassac gallery on Sotheros Boulevard.

The exhibit’s title is a reminder that buildings are human constructions—“created and destroyed by humans,” Mr Vollak said.

Upon entering the installation, one is surrounded by black lines going every which way, simulating buildings with a modern feel.

The lines, some of which are made from charcoal, protrude onto the room’s ceiling and illustrate historical elements such as Angkor Wat’s pointed cap, which has been intertwined with human faces.

In the middle of the room, three-dimensional wire structures and hanging pieces of charcoal imitate buildings. The charcoal used on the walls and hanging pieces of wood and coconut shells seem to allude to nature and deforestation.

The dark, twisted lines create a rather ominous mood, revealing the artist’s dueling thoughts on the city’s urban landscape. On the one hand, Mr Vollak said, the city’s development can help the poor find work. But on the other, the city’s “environment, pollution and traffic will all worsen.”

Mr Vollak said he wants people to feel free when seeing his work, though he admitted that many say they feel claustrophobic instead. This is perhaps how humans really feel when they cannot see the vastness of the sky amid towering buildings, he said. Others say seeing his work is just like walking in the city.

“This is just an artist’s vision,” Mr Vollak said. “I don’t know if it’s architecturally possible.”

Viewers have until Nov 6 to see for themselves.

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