A new home for travelling creative types to explore and showcase their talents will launch in Phnom Penh this month with a focus on the experimental and art for art’s sake.
Malaysia-born Syahrulfikri Salleh, also known as Ajin, the founder of visual art gallery N o w h e r e, said there was a dearth of creative spaces for local and travelling artists who did not want to have their work exhibited in bars and cafes.
“A lot of other venues are mostly bars and restaurants. It’s not really kid friendly and it’s not really suitable for more artistically focussed stuff, so it’s an alternative art space kind of thing,” he said yesterday.
His new creative space, Neverland, is designed to remedy this in the hope it can bring in bolder and more experimental artists in from around the region who will have more creative and logistical freedom to explore.
“We don’t want it to be like a club, we don’t want it to be like a bar, or a party; purely for experimental stuff,” he said.
Ajin, alongside his girlfriend, Lolli Park set up N o w h e r e and now Neverland in reaction to the lack of purely artistic venues in the city as Ajin found the majority of Phnom Penh’s social events revolved around drinking.
“There’s nothing much especially to do on the weekend aside from going out and drinking,” he said.
“It’s just parties and different bars. Most of the events are music, parties, entertainment, but then the focus is not art, which is why we want to have the art at the forefront.”
And while the official opening of Neverland is not until the end of the month, the space will be warmed up tonight by arguably the most experimental form of music possible: noise bombing.
Known for its DIY spirit, noise bombing usually involves crashing public spaces and blasting sound that has no rhythm, bass or lyrics. Instead, it’s a wall of sound.
While people may argue there’s enough noise pollution in Phnom Penh as it is, US-born sound artist Sean Stellfox, who will be performing tonight, said there was an often underappreciated artistry to it.
Basing himself in Jogjakarta (Jogja), Indonesia, he said noise bombing is a creatively celebrated genre of music, to the point of Jogja becoming almost a musical mecca for sound artists.
“Jogja is known as one of the epicentres of noise in Southeast Asia, many foreign noise artists go there for touring, Jogja Noise Bombing has also been hosting annual noise festivals and conducting noise bombings at major art events,” he said.
“People in Jogja tend to be more open to weirdness. Usually we would find an open outlet, plug in a guitar amp or two and just play until we are asked to leave… then we find another outlet.”
Stellfox said majority of sound artists in Jogja build their own instruments due to high import costs, but this lead to a higher degree of experimentation and personalisation in the noise created.
“Much of the value in Jogja’s approach towards noise is the DIY aesthetic,” he said.
While noise music may not appeal to everyone, Stellfox said he was excited to perform at Neverland and the artistic freedom it will provide.
“Neverland seems to be a positive step in the right direction for Phnom Penh to develop an inclusive and global art space,” he said.
Inclusiveness is key, according to Ajin, who said he hopes Neverland can be open to anyone who wants to try something artistically new, no matter how bizarre.
“Neverland is for anyone to do their own thing, a space for anyone, artists travelling, people living here, if they have an idea,” he said.
This welcoming, bohemian attitude will be expanded upon in the space’s official opening, a visual exhibition titled Whatever Comes, a name that perfectly encapsulates Neverland’s ethos.
“As artists we struggle to keep on doing work, or just to live, so whatever comes,” Ajin said.
Jogja Noise Bombing will be held tonight from 8pm-9pm at Neverland Artspace, #172z2, Norodom Boulevard. Entrance by donation.
“Whatever Comes” will be held at the same venue on August 26, from 6pm.