Sa Sa Art Projects
Jan 15 - Mar 31, 2022
All images by Courtesy of Sa Sa Art Projects
Mchas Teuk Mchas Dei (Master of Lands and Waters) is a group exhibition by Cambodian arts collective Stiev Selapak: Khvay Samnang, Lim Sokchanlina, and Vuth Lyno, who present their artworks together for the first time at Sa Sa Art Projects. The exhibition introduces their recent works in the form of videos, sculptures, photographs, and light installation, focusing on beliefs in nature and practices in the supernatural, animism, and the powerful spirits that take care of our homes, lands, people, animals, and living beings.
Khvay Samnang presents a two-channel performance video, two dragon mask headdresses made from local vines, and four photographs from his Popil (2018) series. Popil is a ritual Cambodians usually do at ceremonies such as baby showers, coming of age, weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies. The passing of Popil in a circle refers to a cycle of life. People perform this ritual to call all the 19 souls of a person to return to the body, because if any of the souls is missing, the person would become sick or unstable. At a wedding, people perform Popil to call back the couple's souls and ask for prosperity and reproduction. Here, Samnang's Popil is instead a performance choreographed and danced by two Cambodian classical dancers, Mot Pharan and Sot Sovanndy, telling a story of the courtship between two dragons. In the video, the couple dances, flies, twists, and twirls, traversing from the northern part of Cambodia to Phnom Penh capital and then the southern part of the country, passing through the sea and mountains, forests, and the cities that are rapidly growing. Their movements and gestures express not only intimacy and love but also tension and fight while telling narratives of ritual. Their presence across critical geographies suggests beyond a romantic relationship to one that is also political.
Khvay Samnang, Popil, 2018. Digital C-Print, 60 x 90 cm edition of 4 + 2AP, 80 x 120 cm edition of 3 + 2AP
Lim Sokchanlina's Letter to the Sea (2019) is a single-channel video accompanied by process documentations, letter archive, and some objects. This work focuses on Cambodian fishers based in Thailand. Thai fishing industry faces many critical issues, including labour exploitation, human trafficking, and drug use and trafficking. After visiting and learning stories of many Cambodian fishers in the Thai sea and some provinces, Lina makes a performance by writing a letter and reading the letter at the bottom of the sea at Koh Kut, an island at the sea border between Thailand and Cambodia (near Koh Kong province, Cambodia). The letter describes some of the Cambodian fishers' hardships; they are exploited, abused, trafficked, and some become addicted to drugs and turned mentally ill. The artist dedicates his letter to the spirit who takes care of the sea and the spirits of the Cambodian fishers who died at sea. The sound of the water bubbles from the artists' breathing together with his reading of the letter amidst a blurry vision under the sea, produces a poetic yet haunting tale of the gloomy inter-state crisis.
Lim Sokchanlina, Letter to the Sea, 2019. Single channel video, color, sound, 17’35”, looped, edition of 5 + 2AP
Vuth Lyno introduces an architectural installation made of neon light and four images of a kind of shrine called Chumneang Pteah (house spirit). Cambodian Chumneang Pteah is influenced by a Chinese practice believing that a spirit takes care of each house. People place Chumneang Pteah, which is usually made of a miniature house, on the ground facing out to the entrance of a residence or home of business. In contrast, Lyno's S h r i n e (2022) is a human-scale Chumneang Pteah in skeletal fragments made of neon light tubes suspended in space. It radiates red light like fire and faces down from above, confronting the audience as they walk into the gallery. The other four wall pieces are made of alluring golden stainless steel, outlining Chumneang Pteah in various designs. They are shiny and reflect like mirrors, producing ever-changing reflected images as the audience walks past them. Whether it is a light or a reflection, Lyno's work creates a new experience and vision as if constructing an otherworldly space for the interface between the audience and the house spirit.
Vuth Lyno, S h r I n e, 2022. Neon light installation, 160 x 125 x 87 cm, edition of 4 + 1AP
Mchas Teuk Mchas Dei asks who the master and caretaker of the lands and waters is. Are they humans, animals, plants, or spirits? Through the works in various media and forms by the three artists, the exhibition brings to the fore the interaction and complex relationships between nature and the supernatural, humans and non-humans, the tangible and the intangible, and between states, which continue to shape the politics, economies, cultures, traditions, livelihoods, and essentially social structures. If any member of nature or the supernatural has a crisis, it may lead to risks, irregularities, and imbalance for lives and ecologies, whether they are visible or not.