By Sam Campbell , Economics Today
Water, that most fundamental of elements, is getting a second look at the Bophana Center, with 18 local artists exploring the concept ‘still water.’
Avoiding the obvious platitudes, Chum Noy, the cultural events man-ager, said that the exhibition is a step forward for the contemporary art scene in Phnom Penh.
Water has been central to the Khmer psyche for millennia, said Tith Veasna, the exhibition’s curators, pointing to the extensive hydrological infrastructure of the ancient Angkor empire and the pervasive wetlands that cover much of the country in wet season as examples of why.
The artists were asked, “How does water affect human life?” Tith Veasna added, resulting in sometimes complex considerations of the consequences of development, such as pollution and flooding. “To destroy the environment is not only to destroy ourselves, but also destroy the future,” she said.
Heim Ankanitha, 25, examines the disparity between traditional folk Cambodian traditions surrounding water and the actions of modern Cambodians. “People say water is life but they never think about water,” she said. Weddings were once held by the waters of Boeung Kak Lake in Phnom Penh, Heim Kannitha added, until steady encroachment and a growing population sent pollution levels soaring.
Her work, an intriguing trio of collages, questions the wisdom ignoring traditional attitudes, with a teeming wetland showing what’s at stake, and a giant question mark to underline the quandary.