This series of work by Cambodian artist Oeur Sokuntevy, Human Nature, explores the ambiguity between humanity and the natural world through fantastical scenarios. By creating characters that are animal, human and plant, the artist proposes an undeniable relationship between them. One of co-dependency, accountability and sometimes abuse. In What My Father Gave Me a child pulls back the ocean tide like a bed sheet and uncovers a pile of garbage and animal carcasses. Although living in a beautiful and natural environment, the damage caused by humans is ever-present, if only hidden, and the child must bear the consequences of the actions of her forefathers. In Empty Promises a woman bearing on her head a hut with her family inside offers an empty bowl to a unicorn-monkey. Thinking first of her own survival, she makes only a gesture to give back to nature but it is empty and useless.
We as humans often want to hide or disguise our animal nature. Through intellectual pursuits we try to distance ourselves from the biological instinct and deny our responsibility to the environment. With meticulous detail, Sokuntevy constructs a world populated by hybrid characters. There is no distinction between nature, human and animal—it is through this uncertainty that the artist builds a narrative. Sokuntevy is known for her surrealistic vision, challenging topics of feminine sexuality, traditionalism and in this series on humanity’s relationship with nature she is equally bold and dramatic. Throughout the series, Sokuntevy calls into question human liability by confronting the viewer with a simple notion that “humans are animals too.”