“A Matter of Context: Writing About Cambodian Photography Today” / Museum of Modern Art


On 21 April 2013, I presented a paper at a symposium convened by Cornell University at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. The symposium is titled Contemporary Art in Cambodia: A Historical Inquiry. It is held in conjunction with Season of Cambodia. Fellow speakers and discussants include Nora Taylor, Pamela Corey, Roger Nelson, Lyno Vuth, June Yap and Erin Gleeson, amongst others.
My paper is titled A Matter of Context: Writing about Cambodian Photography Today.
In the last decade, we have seen the emergence of contemporary photography in Cambodia. This has prompted some curators and writers to speak of the photographic arts in Cambodia as something new. In truth, the years of displacement in the 70s and 80s ruptured the development, and our knowledge, of Cambodian photography. Today, as we begin to write the history of Cambodian photography, it is important to take into account its vernacular practices since the late colonial era. This is because in Southeast Asia, we tend to contextualize photography and its relationship with art in a very narrow way. In this presentation, I use Cambodian photography as a test case to suggest that curators and art historians in Southeast Asia should rethink the connection between art and photography.

My trip to NYC is made possible by Lee Foundation and Empowering Youth in Cambodia (EYC).