Erin Gleeson, born in Minneapolis in 1979, is the Artistic Director and co-founder of SA SA BASSAC, a gallery and resource center in Phnom Penh which, in its first year, 2011, focused on curating foundational solo exhibitions for Cambodia’s leading artists while extending numerous public programs to local audiences.
Based in Cambodia since 2001, Gleeson has curated many solo and group exhibitions, and has shared lectures on various aspects of contemporary art from Cambodia with such partners as Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Artsonje Center, Asia Pacific Triennial, Asia Art Archive, Para/Site Art Space, The Sotheby’s Institute, and Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College. Her forthcoming projects include the group exhibition and publication Phnom Penh: Rescue Archeology, IFA, Berlin and Stuttgart (2013) and her work as visual arts co-curator with Leeza Ahmady for Season of Cambodia, a citywide festival of Cambodian art in New York City.
The artists seemed equally skeptical; they had never considered the river as source material, yet their curiosity piqued as they began spending time in different locations on the same water vein – the Tonle Sap - a lake and river isolated to Cambodia and unique as the only river in the world to reverse directions annually, forced by the Mekong River in monsoon.
The resulting works meaningfully extend the artist’s practices, while creating a unique portrait of the Tonle Sap’s environmental and cultural ecology. Vuth Lyno, who had recently curated a community sound project, was able to experiment with sound drawn from his residency with a river-based community in the flooded forest of Kompong Pluk. Than Sok, who uses everyday materials to question spiritual practices, used the metaphor of the scarecrow to share his family’s personal experience living near and being flooded by the Tonle Sap in Phnom Penh. Lim Sokchanlina’s photography project considered the relationship between rising temperatures and water levels by staging fantastical scenes with industrial ice blocks melting against diverse backdrops of the Tonle Sap.
The artists and I look forward to placing these works in conversation with the many other regional perspectives in this project.