Perhaps we could have called it an anti-exhibition.
Why? An exhibition should be an opportunity to showcase your work. But our idea of exhibits is different and pure – that all photographs are postcards on a single table. You write your message on them and can take them away. We didn’t want this to be a default photo exhibition where photographs are mounted on boards and frames, laid out for you, eager for your attention, as if they are talking to you aloud next to your ear, robotically scripted. A photo exhibition is where you get to know a place you have never been or a person you have never met before. We don’t want to be the strangers who come shouting at you. You have to come, sit down, and find out for yourself, what this place has to offer. They are photographic, pictorial and textual fragments that paints a place not too far from here. They are real identities and feelings that you and me both can relate to.
When we first sit down and conceive the idea of showing our projects this year, it was to be simple and minimal. Yes, we always enjoy simplicity. But every other year, we come to a period where we are in the middle of projects. Thnouh School, our forth built project, is underway and in the beginning of the summer we were still running up and down our studio testing different materials and joinery. So we decided to let our experiences in Takeo take over, to have a narrative of its own. This doesn’t have to be celebratory event of showy photographs and final products. Most of the time, this is how our projects usually are, happening, in-between and in-the-process-of.
We chose our first venue to be the new transparent Visitor Gallery in HKU. It was difficult to design any exhibits at first because it has virtually no vertical surface we could use. But before we condemn its homogenous Hong Kong Style(-less glass screens, it is surrounded by a beautiful forest with southeast Asian Poincinana, ferns and bamboos. We thought this could be the perfect parallel metaphor for our affection to nature. We didn’t want to place Cambodian artefacts around the gallery, hoping we can somehow transport you to Takeo. It would be cliché. This should be an inspiration from our work in Cambodia, not imitation. So our exhibits are locally found objects, the material you remember all too well: metal pipes, transparent acrylic, shipping pallets. Tables, chairs, model stands were all made by our amateur hands, but with thought and care. They have minimal costs but they defines an intimate even cosy setting with the wooden-floored gallery.
There is one photo I particularly remember. A Child – SreyNa, a girl in Thon Mun Village who visits us everyday when we were building the bamboo façades of Thon Mun Community Centre. The story begins with the traditional Chinese values embodied by bamboo, nobility, integrity, energy, humility, discipline, and Srey Na would often surprise us behind these porous and layered screens, barefooted sporting a bamboo basket. Her smiles would remind us to rediscover the virtues of simplicity and fortitude among the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. It is this moment of rediscovery and reflection that this exhibition wishes to trigger. When you write your postcards, the long transparent table will sometimes show you a bit of the reflected blue sky and bamboo shoots. I guess the final touch of the experience gives you a chance to help us disseminate our stories - posting your written cards for you from Takeo.
This is not a brand new experience that is unheard of. Rather, a momentary rediscovery that the simplest stories evoke the deepest thoughts – finding oneself in the story of another. We hope you could find yours too.