Take a quick tour of the show I have curated at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, titled "Ruptures and Revival: Cambodian Photography in the Last Decade". The show took place from 8 March to 1 April 2012 at ICA Gallery 2.
The years of turmoil in the 70s and 80s ruptured the energetic beginnings of “modern” Cambodian arts in the 1950s. Ironically, this break has also allowed curators and writers today to proclaim that Cambodian photography emerged out of nowhere in the last decade or so. Indeed, its revival started in the 90s. However, Cambodian photography has always existed, even from a creative or cultural perspective—in the imperfect view of the colony seen through the picture postcards of the early 20th century, in the debates over painting and photography initiated at the School of Cambodian Arts (predecessor of the Royal University of Fine Arts) in the 1950s, in the movie posters from the 1960s to the mid-70s, in the images made by local photojournalists before the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975, and in the horrific portraits made at the S-21 interrogation centre.
This exhibition, on the other hand, is a testimony of the recent revival. Featuring seven bodies of work made in the last decade, this is the first attempt to showcase three “generations” of Cambodian photographers within the same exhibition. From a redeeming portrayal of Khmer Rouge (KR) cadres forced into the revolution to a critical response against the filling-in of public lakes in Phnom Penh, from naked self-portraits that challenge the norms of society to an archaeological study of homes and a telecom office, this exhibition counters the cliché imageries of temples and beggars produced today in the name of documenting Cambodia.
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