World Art Crawl with Anida Yoeu Ali’s “Buddhist Bug”

The Buddhist Bug is an interdisciplinary performance project that was born out of “otherness” and humor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2013, incubated in Chicago, USA and now will start a crawl around the globe. This persona which draws on the religious iconography of both Islam and Buddhism follows the semi-autobiographical narrative of artist Anida Yoeu Ali. The Buddhist Bug is at times humorous, provocative and always curious. As a performance artist, Ali embodies the Buddhist Bug in carefully constructed scenarios ranging from a state run university campus in Phnom Penh to idyllic rice fields at sunrise. The 40+ meter long orange Bug/Ali enters these sites with new eyes and explores the sensations of its own body and environment, sometimes interacting with nearby people or materials.

The work of the Buddhist Bug is rooted in the artist’s performance and subsequently the resulting images and videos document the surprise, amusement or apathy of the observers and those that interact with the bug. Ali says about the work:

“The Bug is a creation inspired by two reasons (1) my personal inability to reconcile my fascination with Buddhism alongside my upbringing as a Khmer Muslim woman and (2) an attempt to capture a quickly changing Cambodian urban and rural landscape. The project is a culmination of my thematic interest in hybridity, transcendence, and otherness. Through an interdisciplinary approach, my work maps new political and spiritual landscapes. Meters and meters of textile act as skin, as a way for the surface of my body to extend into public spaces, and as a metaphoric device for stories to spread across an expanse.”

The Buddhist Bug debuted in Phnom Penh at JavaArts (2013), and followed with a selection of works at Singapore International Photography Festival and Art Stage (Singapore). This year, Ali and the Buddhist Bug, joins the 5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennaleas artist in residence and exhibiting artist in September 2014. She presents a selection of works that includes her recent performance in her birth village (Battambang, Cambodia) as well as two videos, newly released. The images and videos are installed together with the 40+ meter Bug. The Fukuoka Triennale, which opened on September 5th, is considered a significant international art event “held under a different theme every three years to introduce the most up-to-date tendencies in art from 21 countries / regions in Asia, based on the continuous researches and art exchange programmes by the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (FAAM).” (FT5 website)

In October, The Buddhist Bug will be included in an exhibition titled BudiDaya at the Malay Heritage Centre, Singapore. The exhibition explores themes of identity and culture from the Malay Archipelago and specifically the interrelations between Malaysia and its neighbors like Mynamar, Indonesia and Cambodia. One of the curators, Khairuddin Hori, will continue to work with artist Ali and The Buddhist Bug Project in exhibitions scheduled for Paris and Lyon, France in 2015.

Later in the same month, four images around the theme of the Mekong will be presented at the Milan Image Art Fair in Singapore at a newly conceived curatorial platform curated by Loredana Paracciani. Later, Paracciani will also include several images in a group show, Breaking and Reconstructing The Circle, curated for the SEA ArtsFest in London within the same month. The exhibition envisionsdiaspora and social displacement as personal and collective journey, either physical—in terms of moving from one place to another across countries—or intellectual, through the cultural, social and political changes that have influenced Southeast Asia for decades.” (Paracciani, exhibition statement)

The Buddhist Bug will return to Cambodia by the end of 2014 year for an exhibition at the renovated 1961 Gallery space in Siem Reap.

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