House – Spirit

Vuth Lyno

House – Spirit, 2020, Water color on paper Diptych, 36 x 53 cm each, Painted by Than Sok
All images courtesy of the artist

The White Building was the first apartment-style public housing built in the 1960s during Cambodia's post-independence period. It later became a dynamic community of more than 2,000 people, including generations of artists, musicians, performers, and mostly low-mid income residents. 

The building was knocked down in 2017 to make way for new development, as the government decided that the structure was no longer safe. As people moved out, many left their spirit houses there. The spirits accumulated a dense history and rich stories of the families and the neighbourhood. They knew the community's anxieties and desires, having witnessed what happened in the area. They are an archive or a bank of knowledge, though paradoxically are inaccessible, safeguarded, and remain private. 

After seven years of continuous work in this vibrant community, the artist felt the need to document its collective memory that lasts beyond its physical disappearance. He organised a collection of donations for the spirit houses. They are installed on a structure made of used window and door grills collected from all over the city. Together, they reconstruct pieces of history and memory of the White Building community and Phnom Penh city, forming a refuge for their collective spirit. 

Produced in collaboration with artist Than Sok, these paintings are based on the physical installation of the spirit houses. 

Editor: Aura Contemporary Art Foundation