After 11 years of being Phnom Penh’s iconic arts hub, the German-Cambodian Cultural Center Meta House is ready to march forward with new plans for the years ahead. It will start with moving out of the triple-storey building on Samdech Sothearos Boulevard – where it sat for the past nine years – and relocating into a new space on Street 178.
Anith Adilah Othman recently spoke to its founding director Nicolaus Mesterharm, a figure much-loved by many art practitioners in the Kingdom, on his visions for the independent arts center. He also reminisced about Meta House’s journey to get to where it is today and closing a chapter with a bang.
KT: Why is Meta House moving to a new location when people are already familiar with its current location?
Mr Mesterharm: It was always clear to us that after 10 years, this location would no longer be available, with the possibilities of rental going up, among others. This is something normal. We have to make things work and go with the flow. It is not actually a new start for us, we would not have to build from scratch. It is an exciting change.
KT: So where is Meta House moving to?
Mr Mesterharm: Basically it is a space on Street 178. We will occupy a space that once was Cambodia’s first contemporary art gallery. It has a history. When I first came to Cambodia as a filmmaker in 2000, that was where I was introduced to the young Cambodian arts scene. In this regard, I am quite happy and proud to occupy that space. We will still do the same Meta House you came to know about.
KT: What can we expect at the new location?
Mr Mesterharm: We will go back to what Meta House once was. One floor fits all. Gallery, cafe, bar and event space will all be in one. We will use the space in its entirety, in a way that is possible. We will definitely continue to do parties but they will look and feel different. It will take a moment until we understand what is possible and suitable for this new space.
KT: What do you look forward to the most with this move?
Mr Mesterharm: The idea is really to use this move to improve in general. Not just move for the sake of moving, but see it as a new challenge and possibly reinvent ourselves in new ways. Many people asked if this stresses me out and I said no. There are stressful moments, but now after nine years of doing almost similar things, I am thrilled to try out new things and work with new people to shift the focus a little bit.
KT: Are you not worried about potentially losing the current crowd with the move?
Mr Mesterharm: No, I mean the new location would give us walk-in crowds which I never get here. In terms of visibility and reaching out to our target audience, the new place is definitely better.
KT: That’s interesting. When will Meta House open its curtains again and what is happening in the interim period?
Mr Mesterharm: We might re-open in May, it is hard to predict because moving involves a lot of work. But we will keep everyone posted through social media. Ultimately, we have to vacate this building by March 30. The language school will still operate here throughout April and move out there after the Khmer New Year. Meanwhile, we will utilise the period between to take some break, transporting some things and settling in.
KT: How are you commemorating the end of an era here?
Mr Mesterharm: Starting from March 19, we have the final Meta 2.0 Art Exhibition dubbed “Towards the is Future!”. This is basically the last walkthrough of what Meta House has been doing for the past 11 years, exhibition-wise. We had the idea when clearing our storages and we found things that make us reminiscent. For loyal patrons, this would be a good reminder and for new visitors, they get to understand Meta House better. To cap it off, we will have a grand party.
KT: Yes, over the years you are known for throwing some really cool parties. Please tell us more about this particular one, which I believe will be the party of all parties. What can be anticipated?
Mr Mesterharm: I mean, life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance. I hope people would join us on Saturday (March 30) for the closing party featuring German house DJ and label owner Shir Khan who is the originator of Berlin’s deep house label “Exploited”. This is a staple in the music libraries of underground house fans worldwide. And what’s special is this is his first time ever in Cambodia. Shir Khan will be accompanied by his Ukrainian partner Luna Summer. On the night, we will also have Phnom Penh’s one and only Dr. Wah-Wah and the Meta House Crew on the decks.
Join the Meta House family in bidding farewell to its current location at the closing party tomorrow (Saturday, March 30) where entrance is free. Beer and finger food will also be provided between 8pm to 9pm.