This unprecedented event is the culmination of a project initiated by Phare Ponleu Selpak, in collaboration with the French Development Agency (AFD) and supported by the Fonds Métis, a unique initiative to link art and development. The city of Battambang being recognized for its artistic and architectural contributions, it was decided to implement the project. The festival presents the challenges and opportunities of the province in relation to AFD’s areas of intervention in the region, including water resource management, education and access to electricity.
First Phase: New Creative Process
The project began with the Phare Design Lab in Battambang in January 2023, in collaboration with Phare Ponleu Selpak and the School of Visual and Applied Arts (VAAS). Over the course of a week, about twenty students gathered, working in teams to consider an artistic representation of their ideal Cambodia of the future.
After a week of intensive work, including field research, collective ideation and the production of a work, seven prototypes of visual or living art were presented. These models were exhibited in the garden of the French Embassy in Phnom Penh on February 20, 2023, during the celebration of AFD’s 30th anniversary in Cambodia.
Second phase: artistic mentoring through the Métis project
In the continuity of the creation process, and with this success, the Métis Fund wanted to accompany the continuation of this dynamic in order to reproduce the prototypes on a large scale. Three professional artists were mobilized to support students in the design, construction and exhibition of these works. It was decided to keep only five installations, to meet the artistic, technical and budgetary constraints of the project.
The exhibition of the works took place during the urban art festival in Battambang, on October 21, 2023. The festival included five monumental art installations and a circus show, designed to invite local communities to discuss the province’s sustainability trajectory issues :
- Four installations «Bakprea», «Having electricity, having transformation», «New generation, new era» and «A drop of life», present the axes of development of the province of Battambang in the key areas of the management of the fishery resources, access to electricity, education and water resource management. The structures were made from natural and/or recycled materials
- The fifth installation, «Golden Soil», has a strong participatory dimension. The festival participants were invited to enter and immerse themselves in Battambang soil: they were able to explore a dark forest of suspended roots, thanks to a flashlight.
- In parallel, a circus show took place during the inauguration of the festival. This specially created new show choreographed by Phare Ponleu Selpak, has highlighted the artistic dimension of all these works.
“I have seen a remarkable progression in students’ thinking about social and community issues, greatly enriching their artistic approach. Our discussions highlighted the importance of recognizing art in the environment, enabling the creation of works that are deeply rooted in the social context.” Eng Riithchandaneth – Professional Artist, Project Mentor