statement

The Buddhist Bug is the concept of artist Anida Yoeu Ali, and a project of Studio Revolt.  In the artist statement she explains: “The Buddhist Bug Project seeks to map a new spiritual and social landscape through its surreal existence amongst ordinary people and everyday environments. The Buddhist Bug is a fantastic saffron-colored creature that can span the length of a 30-metre bridge or coil into a small orange ball. Rooted in an autobiographical exploration of identity, the Bug comes from the artist’s own spiritual turmoil between Islam and Buddhism. Set amongst everyday people in ordinary moments, the Bug provokes obvious questions of belonging and displacement.”

The Bug is an other-worldly creature with bright orange “skin” the color of Buddhist monk robes with a head piece based on the Islamic hijab.  Together with photographer Masahiro Sugano (her creative partner from Studio Revolt), Anida brought the Bug to Cambodia, the country of her birth and of the Bug.  She created a series of site-specific performances, inserting the Bug into urban and rural landscapes, resulting in humorous and surreal scenarios.

The Buddhist Bug will also be exhibited online at the Philanthropic Museum, in collaboration with its founder and curator Patricia Levasseur de la Motte.  For additional details, Patricia can be contacted at plm@thephilanthropicmuseum.org, and more info found here http://www.thephilanthropicmuseum.org/.

Artist statement

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.

For me, the Bug is created from a sense of play and curiosity. S/he is a displaced creature destined to travel and wander amidst the “in-between”. This space, which exists between who s/he is and where s/he is, is in fact a powerful place for encounter, habitation and reinvention. The Bug is created as an assertion of paradoxes, a result of a hybrid refugee experience, embodying the fluctuating inside/outside perspective of the transnational being. S/he longs for stillness while on a constant journey. S/he is a source for refuge while on a perpetual search for home. S/he is both a bridge and obstacle. S/he is a creature belonging in this world yet appearing to be from another universe.

At the heart of my work is an interest in developing stories, usually narratives that exist outside of conventions. The Buddhist Bug Project continues a methodology in which personal narratives shape my art. I believe performing narratives is an act of social engagement that contributes to collective healing. For me, performance and storytelling become ways of bridging the interior and exterior space of self as well as initiate critical dialogues between communities and institutions. My interdisciplinary works attempt to find crucial intersections between performing narratives and audience engagement.

about the artist

Anida Yoeu Ali

Anida Yoeu Ali (b.1974, Battambang) is an artist whose works span performance, installation, video, poetry, public encounters, and political agitation. She is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago. After residing for over three decades outside of Cambodia, Ali returned to work in Phnom Penh as part of her 2011 U.S. Fulbright Fellowship. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to artmaking, her installation and performance works investigate the artistic, spiritual and political collisions of a hybrid transnational identity. From the Faroe Islands to the Bronx, Copenhagen to Ho Chi Minh City, she lectures, exhibits and performs internationally. Her pioneering work with the critically acclaimed group I Was Born With Two Tongues (1998-2003) is archived with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library . Her artistic work has been the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. Anida earned her B.F.A. from University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and an M.F.A. in from School of the Art Institute Chicago. She is a collaborative partner with Studio Revolt, an independent artist run media lab in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Studio Revolt’s short film about Cambodian American deportations, "My Asian Americana" (2011), won the public vote for the White House "What’s Your Story Video Challenge" but was controversially dismissed by contest organizers. In 2013, she will embark on the "Generation Return: Art and Justice Tour" presenting and discussing her works about contemporary justice and its residual effects on the Cambodian American experience. Anida continues to make art and raise her family in Phnom Penh, a city once home to her father.