After discovering more about the Vietnamese art scene in Hô Chi Minh city, thanks to the three artists Bui Cong Khanh (Vietnamese), Richard Steitmatter – Tran (Vietnamese – American) and Bui The Trung Nam (Vietnamese), that I had the chance to meet in Hoï An and in HCM city more than a year ago; after getting to know more about the Cambodian art scene through the VAO, which happened last December 2005 in Phnom-Penh, and thanks to Saklapel Cambodian artists association, I finally decided to create a bridge between the two neighboring countries.
Beyond the suffering, the grudges and the bitterness related to the common recent war history, that none of us should forget, but always remember, considering the recent issue on the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, as a neutral go-between, I thought it would be the good timing to create an encounter between the Vietnamese and the Cambodian contemporary artists.
By experience, I always believed that disciplines such as art, culture and sports could bring together again human beings and people who have been enemies in the past. I bet that Art and creation are still better and stronger links than any political discourse, in order to gain objectivity, clairvoyance, and to create Peace again.
Through the four events, I wanted to get the Vietnamese and the Cambodian artists, part of the new generation, together. In order to give them the chance to meet, to open themselves to each other, to exchange, to share ideas, to learn mutually, and to create artworks in common, the two exhibitions at Popil PhotoGallery and at Java Café & Gallery include several collaboration projects, the roundtable and the common workshop at The Building (Tonle Bassac squatter area), a site which will be demolished some day soon. The workshop, in addition to bringing several artists together, is an effort to immortalize this famous and modern architecture by Vann Molivann from the 60’s, which is a whole microcosm filled with humanity and energy in middle of Phnom-Penh.
In reference to the title of the exhibition of the two painters at Java Café & Gallery called “Reflow”, every year, the Mekong river doubles back upon itself, and in areas reverses direction, flooding the Tonle Bassac with water that passed earlier through China, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. The Mekong itself is a channel for carrying information. The region is particularly sensitive to the behaviors of its neighbors. I hope a better understanding and relationship among these two countries can develop through the metaphor of the reverse flow of the Mekong River.
These innovative and multiple encounters are certainly among the first happening in Cambodia, which, I hope, will bring further opportunities to be developed in the future between Cambodia and Vietnam and not always only with Occidental countries.
--Christine Cibert, curator and organizer of the event in collaboration with Dana Langlois, Java Café & Gallery and Stephan Janin, Le Popil PhotoGallery