Staging Cambodia

Video, Memory & Rock ’n’ Roll

In the collective memory, Cambodia is inseparably tied to the torture and murder of 1.7 million people that was committed between 1975 and 1979 during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. To this day the Southeast Asian country is one of the poorest in the world. With the re-emerging art scene, which is increasingly attracting international attention, Phnom Penh's vibrant nightlife and it's glitzy musical subculture, attest to the efforts of viewing a future beyond just the memory of the horrors of the past.

Some of the signs of this awakening have been captured by Michael Laub in the latest manifestation of his “Portrait Series”. Since 2002, the director and choreographer has been implementing this format in diverse locations. The results of the work that he made in Battambang in the medium of video film could not be more distinct from, yet similar to the “Portrait Series” that he recently directed at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Shots of young circus artists, dancers and visual artists, but also security guards, farmers, vegetable sellers and scavengers from the circle around the NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak all add up to a occasionally sad, poetic, but also highly vital panorama.

Directly following the premiere of the “Portrait Series Battambang” (January 16 and 18), Michael Laub will stage a concert by the celebrated band The Cambodian Space Project, joined by musicians and dancers from Phnom Penh and Battambang. The performance will include video projections by the documentary filmmaker Marc Eberle, who lives in Cambodia. The result will be a flamboyant Rock ’n’ Roll circus entitled “Galaxy Khmer”, which sets up its tent right next to trauma and is inspired in its formal language by the multimedia shows of the 1960's. The Cambodian Space Project reconstructs the pop music that emerged during the same time in Cambodia, successfully bringing the glamour of that period into the present. The protagonists of this cultural boom, like other artists and intellectuals, were persecuted and eliminated by the Pol Pot regime. Using this as a starting point, documentary filmmaker Marc Eberle, in discussion with Margarita Tsomou, will show selected clips of his own and other films that also deal with Cambodia’s political history (January 17).

Two days later (January 19) the cultural theorist and journalist will also moderate a talk with Michael Laub about the emergence and conception of “Staging Cambodia”. Central figures from the scene will also speak in this context, including Xavier Gobin of Phare Performing Social Enterprise, which promotes the social process of reconstruction by means of art, Srey Channthy and Julien Poulson, founding members of the Cambodian Space Project and Khvay Samnang, an internationally acclaimed video and performance artist, who will open an exhibition of selected works at the beginning of this thematic weekend. His installations “Human Nature” and “Newspaper Man” can be seen in various spaces at HAU2 from January 16 to 19.

Concept: Michael Laub/ Remote Control Productions, Annemie Vanackere.
Co-production: HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Phare Ponleu Selpak Association, BIT Teatergarasjen, Bergen and House on Fire with the support of the Cultural programme of the European Union.
Funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Norwegian Association for Performing Arts.