mickyates Art, Cambodia, Coursework, Critical Research Journal, Documentary, Ideas, Installation, Photography, Project Development, SSWeek4, SurfacesStrategies Leave a Comment

In Week Three Reflections, I noted some thoughts about how I might bring alive an installation / exhibition of the Cambodia project.

That, pause being pushed by Gary to consider using ‘photographic apparatuses’ that we don’t normally use, and an exercise on non-human photography, led me to explore the world of software.

I am not going to go through all of that exploration – but an idea did present itself.

Re-configuring the postcard. Often visitors take away postcards from exhibitions as aide memoire. Well, supposing they did that, and challenge aesthetically so that they are not just a ‘copy of an artwork’ but ‘an artwork with meaning’ in their own right?

And supposing I execute that in ways that shock or at least bemuse?

I started with some images of Pol Pot’s Cremation site, which is still there, just north of Anlong Veng. Pol Pot dies on April 18th, 1998 (an event which triggered our active involvement in building schools in Cambodia.

From the New York Times:

The Khmer Rouge rebels rushed the body of Pol Pot toward cremation today without an autopsy that could have determined whether the man responsible for the deaths of more than a million Cambodians in the 1970’s had died of a heart attack, as they have claimed.

With no proven cause of death, American Government officials and scholars who specialize in Cambodia said they could not dismiss the possibility that Pol Pot had died at the hands of his former rebel colleagues or others who had reason to want him killed.

The header of this post is an original image that I took in 2011.

Using Adobe Spark, I started laying out cards with multiple images, in a rather traditional style, as tourists would buy ay any site.

But this rather trivialises matters.

So, further abstracted.

I like the combination of abstract and information content.

It is also easy to see in black and white, for impact.

But then I tend to be a ‘colour’ person, so maybe even full on Pop?

That seems disrespectful of the people who suffered because of his crimes, though the abstract images really beg investigation.

At the moment I like a collaged, layered approach, reminiscent of some of my earlier artworks.

It is providing information, but I feel it’s also suggesting the ‘hidden’ nature of the long terms impacts of the Genocide.

An interesting creative exploration, but very much work in progress.

Week Three Reflections

mickyates Cambodia, Collage, Coursework, Critical Research Journal, Documentary, Installation, Plans & Notes, Reflections, SSWeek3, SurfacesStrategies Leave a Comment

For this week’s reflections, a little late, a few questions stood out.

How could your subjects be influencing you and your approach? Well, unfortunately that has been a real dilemma to me. I am very keen that the Cambodia project tells the story of Sarath and his family. But it has become increasingly clear that ONLY thinking of that will force  rather normal documentary approach and aesthetic. I need to do justice to their story, but with my imprint as the storyteller and artist. If I am too rigid, here, my photography simply will not improve.

Who is your primary audience and subsequently, your secondary audience? My primary audience people that have a little inkling of what happened in Cambodia, but do not know the details, and especially they do not know the impact today. HIDDEN is the key word. I am always struck in Tuol Sleng how many people write in the Visitors Book that they just didn’t know. Equally, Cambodians rarely want to talk about this – only now have we motivated Sarath to write down his stories, which I then hope to document. So, my aim is to make the hidden visible for both a Cambodian and Global audience.

How can crowdsourcing aid your project? On that, I am not yet sure. I am already asking sarath and family to take photographs, write stories etc. And there a couple of other photographer’s joining in. I suspect the real power of crowdsourcing will be funding. I have some meetings planning to explore that.

Week 3 was a big week I think, in my thinking. I realised that this project is not about the images per se, but it is how the images are used to engage my audience and tell the story. I was very taken with Edmund Clark‘s guest lecture, and bought Guantanamo. Clark’s use of several threads to tell the story (in the cells, prisoners at home, guards and pilots) allows the story to breath and to become real.

As to collaboration, I thoroughly enjoyed the Zine exercise. I have written that up elsewhere, so will not repeat. But it was a great experience, I learnt a lot about how different views on the same issue to further the game for all, artistically (I already knew that from business), and it delivered a very good ‘product’.

It also led me to recall other artistic collaborations I have been involved in over the years. I look forward to more!

Cemre has pointed out some interesting sources to study and I am in process of doing just that.

Lukas Birk and Kafkanistan – especially how he presents installations

Cristina de Middel – story telling

Louise Bourgeois – Cells<

Mårten Lange – Another Language (traces)

This made me really think about what I am trying to create. I realise, now, that it is not just a set of pictures. It’s a participative installation. Some ideas:

  • Take Polaroids as people enter the space, then exhibit them on an ‘Execution’ wall as  Mug Shots. Recall Michelle Caswell‘s work, which demonstrated that once photographed, the victims were essentially judged and condemned to death.
  • Have Sarath’s (and other stories) on video for study and reflection.
  • Create Cell-sized spaces to create an impression of ‘being there’, and have photographs and other materials displayed in those cells.
  • Re-define what I mean by Traces . I need to consider operate strands – survivors, protagonists, and tourists. I also need to consider the psychological in each case rather than just the physical remnants of the story.

Should have said, still persevering with Claire Bishop.

All in all, really good week in moving my thinking along.


Bishop, Claire. 2012. Artificial Hells. London: Verso Books.

Caswell, Michelle. 2014. Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia. Madison: University Wisconsin.

Clark, Edmund. 2010. Guantanamo: If The Light Goes Out. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Header image: screenshot from Edmund Clark’s Guest lecture, 18th June. Guantanamo light box installation.