Diaspora Unite to Exhibit Alternative Futures

Nou Sotheavy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Video still from My Asian America by Studio Revolt. Provided

Today the exhibit, ‘Futurographies: Cambodia-USA-France’, is opening in New York, featuring the works of artists, musicians, political organizers, curators, designers and scholars in Paris and Phnom Penh in collaboration with the university of The New School in the United States. 

Two Khmer-American poets, Monica Sok and Peuo Tuy will do spoken word performances for the opening ceremony at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, Parsons School of Design, where the exhibition will be on display until January 10. 

Since last spring, two teams of New School students flew to Paris and Phnom Penh to investigate the intertwined histories of the three countries in a workshop focusing on the histories marked by colonial repression, migration and war.

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Over the course of 10 months of the workshop, the students were able to travel to Phnom Penh and Paris. Meeting a mix of Cambodian and Cambodian overseas  artists like Sok Visal and Anida Yoeu Ali, during these trips the students build up a collective group of work to represent those alternate futures.

Although all three countries’ histories were stained by violence, the multi-media exhibition shows the public the ideas of an alternate future for each country through visual art, photography, music, performance, sculpture, installation and text – a  extending the vision beyond the negativity.

One of the professors who taught the experimental workshops which inspired the exhibition, Jaskiran Dhillon, explained that herself and two other professors, Radhika Subramaniam and Miriam Ticktin, started the project when they brought together graduate students from design, visual culture and anthropology to connect ethnographic and curatorial methodologies. 

“From the outset, the task was to connect the histories and relationships of Cambodia, USA and France we were building on prior research done in these countries, but also felt that it foregrounded the difficulties of representing multilateral stories,” Ms. Dhillon said. 

“In Paris and Phnom Penh, we hope that the local venue will be able to engage and shape the conversation in a manner that is relevant to their audiences and communities and we hope to have opening performances at these locations as well,” Ms. Dhillon wrote in an email to Khmer Times. “The goal for the curators is to generate a conversation across contexts about the ways in which people continually imagine futures –  even when these visions are derailed and hijacked, the momentum may return at another point.  These artists represent that kind of future imagining which also involves an excavation of past imaginings, harkening back to stories of what could have been.”

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The professors have done work at their university as well as in Cambodia with local Khmer NGOs and local artists for several years.  Since 2013, when the Season of Cambodia festival was held New York, the Cambodian-American community in the area has taken more interests publically about the ways in how Cambodian or multiple histories are intertwined.
The faculty want the exhibition to speak to all three contexts and which is why it became a traveling exhibition to be shown in New York, Paris, and Phnom Penh. 

Trying to engage the public, a postcard project was launched with some people already contributing online. These postcards will travel with the show.

The exhibit will then travel to France at the Parsons Paris Gallery in April  and is expected to go to Phnom Penh next year.

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