The White Building As Inspiration For Artists In-Residence

Nou Sotheavy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Sa Sa Art Projects’ Pisaot artists-in-residence present two international artists and their work today at the White Building on Sothearos Boulevard.
On a recent night, hunched over a sound recorder in the middle of a public park near the White Building is Beijing-based artist Yan Jun. He is mute to the world, his ears wrapped in headphones, busy preparing to show how he manipulates the feedback frequencies of live recording from the street which he then turns into white noise. This is part of his Noise Hypnotizing project.

Tonight, he will show the people of Phnom Penh the art of manipulating noise from the White Building’s rooftop. Although the audience is invited to bring their own earphones to better experience the pressurized, high frequency sounds, Mr. Yan hopes to introduce to them how noise can suggest sleep, heighten awareness, or change their state of mind with his experiments connecting live sound with the environment and the audience’s movement.

“It’s changing people’s state – from one reality to another or from one reality to somewhere else,” explained the 42-year-old artist in a soft accent. 

“Slightly, I change the way of perception, the way you feel and listen. Normally, when you would listen to music it’s about rhythm, melody, note and lyrics, but noise is not music. Noise is physical; you don’t just listen to it, you have to use the body to interact with noise.”

White Noise

With a switch, the live noises of the street take over the world. Cars whizzing past on a street, the heavy thump of a ball being kicked, and the scuffle of shoes on the pavement – all these mute out mundane thoughts. 

Slowly using the feedback from small earphones on the mouth of the recorder, he plays with the throbbing pressure of white noise, changing the patterns and frequencies as he watches the reaction of his audience. 

Mr. Yan describes the experience as if listening to the ocean: “It is not just the ear that responds, but the body as well towards the vibrations and sound,” he explains. “In noise, there is no meaning, there is no melody – all the information is hidden in an ocean of noise.”

Likening the process to meditation, he says many of his audience have told him they would often hear random things clearer than before, such as a fan rotating or a breeze of wind below their house, all forms of heightened sense.

Khmer Art Inspiring International Artists

Clare Olivares, another artist in residency from the Bay Area in California, has a different set of artistic skills. Sprawled on the table in front of her are paintings of her observation of daily life around the White Building and her trip to the genocide museum. Each small watercolor painting is vivid and simply illustrated, much like a picture book, an idea she has been entertaining as she plans her return to the states this weekend. 

One painting shows portraits of the girls with the same bowl haircuts she saw on the walls of the genocide museum, while another is of a night scene at the White Building. Every painting is partnered with words cut up from a physicist’s textbook and arranged into poetry to fit the picture.
“I would find poems within the pages and combine them with poetry and painting,” she said, explaining that the sight, sounds and smell of the city inspires her to put her impressions onto canvas.

Although the residency in Cambodia has allowed her to experience new things, she is inspired most by the creativity of Cambodia. Noting the limited art supplies available in the city, she was surprised by the contemporary art scene here. Not only were there creative artists who relied on what few resources they had, but they were also pushing her to reexamine her own work as an artist. 

While teaching young residents of the white building about photo transference, she was amazed at the passion many of the children have about documenting their daily lives at the White Building and the camaraderie to work together.

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