| Cover, discover, recover: Forty years after the civil war and the genocide by the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), Cambodia is slowly rising from its trauma. In the Vietnam War, the (neutral) country had got into the game of the great power nations, several decades of war threw it off course.
The art project re/dis/cover. Cambodia curated by Gertrude Moser-Wagner in Vienna, took up the theme, showed documentary films and artistic photography, touched upon traces of the unspeakable, and astonished with original ideas for coping with everyday life. Cambodian people love music. Cambodia was a French colony as part of Indochina and has been independent since 1953. The capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, was well connected with the European and American centres and, supported by Prince Sihanouk, produced rock and pop music in the Khmer language.
Gertrude Moser-Wagner's project was inspired in 2015 by an event about the artistic documentation of collective trauma at the Akademie der Künste Berlin. Cambodia, the unimaginably cruel war to which the West had reacted carelessly.
Two years later, Moser-Wagner herself travels to Cambodia, the capital Phnom Penh, to give a performance lecture at the German-Cambodian Cultural Center Meta House, founded by Berlin filmmaker Nico Mesterharm. The Meta House is a meeting place for the scene, a production site for film, with an office, bar and open cinema. It is a venue with an ongoing program as well as a popular party venue.
In "re/dis/cover" a traveler, questioner, listener the sculptor and project artist Gertrude Moser-Wagner takes a look at the Southeast Asian country from the outside. The Cambodian documentary filmmaker Sopheak Sao offers an inside view in PHNOM PENH FM: RE / DISC / OVER.
„re/dis/cover“ by Gertrude Moser-Wagner
NCA New Cambodian Artists 2017, Foto: Gertrude Moser-Wagner
Business people on the one hand, they want to build up, get rich, like everywhere else. On the other hand, there are young people with a cultural longing for commitment who reinvent the old Khmer dances: rediscover. Impertuable young women, for example, who courageously look to the future, educate themselves at school and support their families. Closer inspection, here and there the attempts to convey something through art, to heal - be it documentations of the actual state or new forms of theatre. Nowhere does the search for identity and cultural memory seem more important and necessary than in a place where 90 percent of the artists are missing, killed by the Khmer Rouge. In the city of Siem Reap for example the dancers of the group New Cambodian Artists develop a modern dance with old hand gestures of the Apsaras. These occur in Hindu and parts of Buddhist mythology as half human, half divine women. Angkor Wat is littered with reliefs of these temple dancers.
An unexpected immediacy: the attention is drawn to soundscapes, conversations, recordings and forms of speech, drawings and photographs of a photographic nature, otherwise it is hard to grasp.
Interviewpartners: Thonevat Pou, Sophorn Ban, Inge Mesterharm-Dähne, Khon Sreyneang & NCA-New Cambodian Artists, Ouk Sampors, Bob Bruijzendaal, Rithy Teng, Rotha Teng.
PHNOM PENH FM: RE / DISC / OVER by Sopheak Sao with Chris Zippel, Jan Mueller and Nico Mesterharm
Videostill: The Beauty and the Beat © Sopheak Sao
Sao is concerned with the role of women in Cambodian society, from the legendary Apsara dancers depicted on the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat's World Heritage Site, the farmers' wives in the rice fields, the child soldiers of the "Killing Fields" to the modern, courageous businesswoman, mother and activist. Cambodian women of various age groups have their say. Young Khmer artists, bloggers and activists whom Sao Sopheak met in the course of her 10-year career as a filmmaker. Also featured are Cambodian television stars, women from mountain tribes in the north-east of the country and - posthumously - Cambodian rock diva Kak Channthy, who died in a car accident in 2018.
Kak Channthy and Sopheak Sao shared a passion for Cambodian rock'n'roll from the 1960s, which they - like 80% of the total population born after 1979 - know only from audio recordings, tapes or radio broadcasts. Due to the genocide of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79) and three decades of civil war, there is almost no original vinyl left in the country. The songs of "Cambodian Elf" Sin Sisamouth and his contemporaries, most of whom were killed by the Communists, are still reminiscent of the older generation of better times when Cambodia's King Sihanouk wanted to develop his country into "Switzerland of Southeast Asia" and Cambodian pop culture was very popular throughout the subcontinent.
RE / DISC / OVER tries to explore how the Khmer live today in a way that honours the spirit and music of the "Golden Era", including audio clips from Sopheak Sao's films, field recordings, reworked record samples and live scratching.
In cooperation with Medienwerkstatt Wien, Weltmuseum Wien and Meta House Phnom Phen supported by Goethe Institut.
Don’t think I have forgotten
Meta House Phnom Phen