Meas Sokhorn is a Cambodian sculptor and performance artist unafraid to take risks. Refusing to take anything at face value, his process thrives off what he perceives to be unfulfilled potential and unknown possibilities to present critical ideas of transformation and progress,
Since 2006, Khorn has almost exclusively been working with found materials such as barbed wire, plastic wire, chopsticks, and kindling, and recognisable objects to compose installation pieces. His practice has increasingly involved re-working or adapting a material or object to transform its form or overall aesthetic. Whether in terms of how they are used or perceived, these items become interrogated versions or interpretations of what they were. The objects are offered the possibility of becoming something else, and with the viewer are gifted a new kind of conceptual freedom.
Khorn’s earlier sculptural works strongly referenced the fundamental elements of nature and the human body. He initially used rattan and bamboo to create sweeping, curved sculptures, which showcased his training in interior design by exuding a balanced, calming quality. In ‘Exhale’, a sculpture made from wire and an indigenous reed, he continued to play with familiar forms. Part of Khorn’s second solo show, this piece which suspended from the gallery ceiling, was named as the winner of the Signature Art Prize by the Singapore Art Museum in 2008. An ode to the billowing grace, freedom and smoothness of smoke as it leaves the body, the sculpture conjured sensual ideas of impermanence and metamorphosis. He found resonance in these ideas with his experiences of fleeting, intimate encounters which have lingered long in his memory.
His contrast to these sculptures, in 2010 he began to use sculpture and installation to explore the physicality and challenge the conventions of traditional gallery spaces. During his residency in America, he constructed ‘Self-portrait’, an abstract, flowing piece built from around 7,000 chopsticks, which sprawled across the gallery. In the same year, he exhibited the ironically titled installation ‘Contemporary Art Museum’. This site-specific imagined space, made from a web of red waxy string attached to the gallery walls and an old kitchen door, commented on the lack of museums in Cambodia for contemporary artists to exhibit their work.
Khorn’s work has increasingly referenced social issues he sees to be threatening the history and identity of his homeland. His first performance piece titled ‘Trash Fix’ used his bicycle as a rubbish-removal service. Aside from commenting on environmental concerns, similarly to his collaborative project ‘Hawkers Song’ which considered disappearing characteristics of Phnom Penh, ‘Trash Fix’ adopted ‘disposability’ as a metaphor for the broader existence of apathy within society. An aural video piece, ‘Hawker’s Song’ was a tribute to the profession and cultural heritage which he sees as literally and symbolically being drowned out by persistent construction and change.
The impact of modernity on traditional practices is a theme that drives his latest series of sculptural works. Titled ‘Pore’, which refers to the production of sweat during physical labour, the works acknowledge the declining ability of craftsmanship to provide a sustainable livelihood due to a reduction in demand and motivation. Some references are obvious: a wood-planner or a chisel, whilst others acknowledge the lifestyle that surrounds them-a cooking pot for example. Transformed by the use of metal wire around them, these sculptures at once acknowledge the trapped situation of these professions caused by a modernity which seeks and values fast and cheap products, and offers new hope for the tool by reactivating them in a different form. He is highlighting the imperative nature of people who have these long-preserved skills to react, adapt, and take ownership in order to survive.
His work, whether sculptural or performance, is largely underpinned by a process that disrupts and challenges the status quo: aesthetically, formally, or increasingly in his latest works socially. With the focus on society and problems he perceives, comes a growing sense of frustration at the inaction or lack of engagement from those affected. By highlighting these concerns and providing impetus for change, Khorn's process and final pieces are not defined as being his versions of a complete solution. Indeed, just as his sculptures are often completed by the viewer's interpretation and interaction, his process is more of an active mediator reforming bonds between disconnected people and realities.