A second look at Cambodia’s plastic habits

Anith Adilah Othman / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Turning wastage into art. Jean-Francois Perigois

The exponential rise in the use of plastic bags in the country has triggered a Phnom Penh-based Portuguese photographer Miguel Jeronimo to create a discourse through an art exhibition dubbed ‘Plastic Kingdom’.

Aimed at raising awareness on the adverse impact of plastic use on the environment, the month-long exhibition features a total of 20 Cambodian and international artists showcasing various forms of arts such as photography, painting, digital illustration and mixed-media.

The project, available for viewing throughout December at Meta House, is funded by the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation and is curated by Jeronimo himself.

A corridor made from discarded styrofoam boxes. Photo: Jeff Perigois

Some of the eye-catching pieces in the exhibition include ‘prayer flags’ by UK artist Elliss Jaie, made with leftover textiles donated by a former garment factory and wooden installation on the walls which was made with scraps collected from a timber factory, which is the main business that led to rapid deforestation.

Zero-waste clothing brand ‘Tonlé’ also donated recycled canvas which local artist Vandy Sok artistically utilised to create three paintings on, entitled Breaking Walls, Beauty Sprouting and Destruction.

On its launch on November 28, Jeronimo called on the guests to analyse the different views that each artist had on waste and ecology in Cambodia.

Meaningful and advocacy-driven works of art fill Meta House. Photo: Jean-Francois Perigois

“Apart from the obvious, we are also here to celebrate diversity – the diversity of tonight’s crowd, mediums and even artists. I hope it will be an eye-opener that could lead us to better decisions in the future,” he told the crowd, to a roaring applause.

Other artists whose works were featured are Bor Hak (sculpture), Daro Sam (digital illustration), David Oppetit (photo and sound installation), Flori Green (sculpture), Limhay Chhum (digital illustration), Ket Monnyreak (digital illustration), Khiev Kanel and Yon Davy (dance and video and stop-motion animation), Khun Gechsoun (wood carving), Maciej Dakowicz (photography), Mony Ponn (installation), Nicolas Grey (illustration), Nina Clayton and Make Art Not Waste project (painting and assemblage), Sao Sreymao (digital illustration on photography), Shanghai Chang (installation), Sonich Touch (digital design), Kchao Touch and Darren Swallow (installation), and Yim Maline (drawings and mixed-media).

Unlike conventional art shows, Jeronimo also encouraged guests to interact with some of the art pieces on display.

Photo: Jean-Francois Perigois

“This is not just an exhibition with paintings on the walls, where everything is at your eye level. I want you to look up and down, pick up the pieces and interact with them. Because that is what we need to do if we are going to save the environment, we need to interact with each other,” he added.

Jeronimo’s own works, composing mainly of tweaked photographs of ‘echchay’, or Cambodians who collect waste for recycling purposes, are also showcased.

Meta House founder and director Nicolaus Mesterharm, who was also present, applauded Jeronimo’s initiative to unite a number of renowned artists under one roof to discuss plastic use and the harms it does to the environment.

“Doing an exhibition circling on the theme of recycling is a great effort. This is a topic that is dear to us all because it concerns especially the future of our children, country and the world,” he said in his opening remarks.

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