The Town – Marine Ky – The Transformation
called Battambang, in north western Cambodia. Some facts about it – near by the Sangkae River, the French Colonial architecture is clearly visible, leading rice-producing province of the country and founded by the Khmer Empire. All in all this country is full of history – old and recent – it is impossible to enter this country without getting in touch with these old days. You probably know Angkor Wat which was built in the early 12th century and you may heard about Khmer Rouge. Sure there is more than this to know about Cambodia but these two things were primarily crossing my path during my 18 days on Cambodian land.
First of all I’ve to say that Cambodia wasn’t on my schedule. Why I came here ? Well, sometimes things happen that make you change your plan and I’ve learned so far to go with one’s gut. I was supposed to go to Vietnam but it didn’t felt right, I thought what if I feel lost again like I did in Laos ? (I had this gut feeling that this would happen) So why should I put myself in a situation I won’t like – makes no sense – this trip has already enough challenges so make it as simple and enjoyable as possible and go with the flow.
That’s why I ended up here in town.
It’s the 2nd of November, hot as always, I start my day in this lovely, quiet and cute place. I’m in search for something eatable, heading the street down and somewhere randomly I go left. Starving but always with eyes wide open. Over the way I see something red, some flower stuff ? Something like art, or what is this ? I go closer, so close that I actually can read the sign :
Of course I went in.
And then I saw this world something Japanese, massive wood furnitures, porcelain cups in a shelf. It seems like a home and likewise a museum. Art is decorating the 3 meters high walls, but it’s a cosy place and in every corner is something to discover.
is the keyword. It’s her place, her home and studio. Her creative empire in a family environment. I enter her home, she talks to a woman, her name is Justine – with who I spent later on a lovely afternoon in Battambang. A briefly ‘Hey’ and ‘Who are you?’ and everything else flow. I completely forgot about breakfast and only by looking at the time and my strong feeling of hunger I realised I should eat something – now. She proposed us, me and Justine to come back later after lunch around 2pm, to have a cup of tea together. Needless to say that I answered Yes with a huge smile.
She is an artist with a fantastic universe.
She isn’t Japanese at all, but loves the Japanese style in any kind – she has a porcelain and a huge kimono collection.
She loves texture, that is why she experimented with textile prints.
She does etchings.
She reflects on topics like Cambodian culture and peace in her work.
She is wise, open-minded and funny and I miss her company.
We spent the whole afternoon together, and many more should follow. We talked about Cambodian history – the Khmer Rouge, a topic which is rarely discussed in schools – a touchy topic. I learned that not every Khmer, the predominant ethnic group here and the comment name for Cambodian Citizen (90% of the population), has a passport. It’s way to expensive for their life standards – about 135 US$. It’s half of their monthly income. It’s all about money, right ? I’ve met some Khmer people, Rida, Mr. Dina, the two guys who were filming for the next music video clip in Battambang, they are all in their 20s – young, curious and full of dreams – like me. Talking to them about my travel experiences, the places I’ve seen and where I’ll go make me realize once again that it’s not for granted. I mean everyone has its priorities in life, not everyone wants to travel but at least you know you could. A passport in Germany costs about 40 US$ – more than 3 times less.
We also talked about Meditation, one of Marine’s joy and passion. She has her way of talking about it which makes you want to experience it, right now. She dropped the word Anicca in our conversation. I’ve never heard about it before. But everything I’ve learned so far made sense when she explained it to me. Impermanence. My experience here in Battambang is pushing me, helping me to understand and to accept this permanent change. This world trip is the best ‘school’. Living the present moment. I can feel that I get more and more relaxed with couple of things which I wasn’t before I started this journey. It’s like opening your eyes more and more – slowly.
Its facination is you never know what’s happening next, there is no better, just different and always forward.
And so it came that Marine and I collaborated.
First of all I asked some questions about herself, Cambodia and her advice for young artists and designer. Here we go …
Join with seams (JWS) asked // Could you present yourself in a few words ? Where are you from ? Your life and art career ?
Marine Ky (MK) answered // I was born into a Chinese-Khmer family from Phnom Penh. Following the period of intensive bombings by the U.S.A. and its support of the Lol Nol Government, I left Cambodia with my grandparents and have since become a global citizen from France and Australia, a returnee part of the Khmer diaspora. My life and art have been much informed by my experiences of displacement and growing up from being a child refugee to an adult in the West. Over twenty-two years of practice, I have showed extensively in solo exhibitions in Australia, Cambodia & Singapore. As part of group exhibitions, my work had been seen in Asia, notably in Japan, Thailand, Singapore & Cambodia.
JWS // How would you describe your work in couple of words ?
MK // My works carries the collective memory of the presence of female dedicated hands stitching, embroidering but recomposed organically.
JWS // When did you get first in touch with printmaking ?
MK // In 1993.
JWS // Why this technique ?
MK // I was always intrigued by the process of bookmaking, and particularly of artists’ books, the art of the multiples, that includes and features original artworks. The marks made by etchings have specificities I am drawn to. These are the tactile rendering of their textures, when printed and the absolute fine attention to details that this medium allows.
JWS // What kind of messages do you want to transmit in your artworks ?
MK // With these etchings using the transfer of textiles and lace motifs, I want to share with art lovers my interest in composition research of these tactile & fine marks to create a material reality made inks, space, light & shadows.
JWS // Your printed ‘clothes’ on fabric create an illusion, what is the purpose of this series ?
MK // This is art mimicking “reality”, an inter-play between wearable, un-wearable, real-wearable and fake-unwearable !! I suggest that artworks may trigger a dimension beyond the materiality of seams, zips, buttons and floral motifs – a sublimated space that has an immaterial quality to it. That characteristic of “being almost” clothes and yet not quite evolves our imaginative projections and that is what I am looking for in creating these “Garment Series”.
JWS // Have you ever collaborated with other artists ?
MK // Yes, with Hiroki Satake, a Japanese wood engraver.
JWS // Can you tell me more about your work and projects with Khmer people ?
MK // My current site specific – Front Shop project is about creating Social and Political Awareness on Cambodia, Sustainability, Community Empowerment & Artist Exchange within the global tourist context. For example, the sewing projects helps two seamstresses to earn their livelihood.
JWS // What are Khmer Kbach and traditional designs ?
MK // They are part of ancestral handicraft – applied art practices in Cambodia, the repertoire of traditional ornamental motifs engraved on wood, copper or silver.
JWS // You traveled and lived in different countries. What does it mean to you to travel ? What do you draw yourself from it ?
MK // Traveling means pulling ourselves off our routine and comfort zone to engage in ways of opening our eyes that allow one to experience life with a new perspective. It is educational and can be life changing. Because it can eventually lead us to deconstruct “our” sense of “national identity”, i.e. our religious intolerance or prejudices by making the reality we experience more relative, subject to conditions.
JWS // What is your advice for young artists and designers ?
MK // I would suggest the following:
To spend more time off smartphones, ipad and other electronic devices, whenever possible
To spend more time in nature, to reconnect with nature and wilderness
To learn the art of living by living simply – a balanced life with its ups and downs by sitting a ten-day Vipassana course to learn step by step the practice of meditation.
JWS // Is meditation influencing your art ? If yes, how ?
MK // Yes, it is influencing in a great deal my art practice. It opens my mind up to a more healthy life style, an art of living that is based on ethics, mind concentration and insight.
Being in Marine’s place and discovering all her work was really inspiring and when she showed me her prints on real fabric I couldn’t resist to ask her if she would like to do something together. I told her about my project and what I would like to do.
Transform it. Transform her prints in real clothes. Take something that wasn’t supposed to be worn and make it wearable. She was interested in it gave me the opportunity to check through all her work and to select 3 of her textile prints. This what I really liked while working with her – her confidence and relaxed nature.
Within 3 days I sew three garments and arranged a photo shooting in the town, but all this wouldn’t have been possible without the help from Marine, Mr. Dina and Rida – our model.
Mr. Dina – how Marine is calling him – and Rida are such kind and helpful people who come regularly to her place to help out. Mr. Dina made me taste the best dessert I’ve ever tried – coconut milk, crushed ice, sweet potatoes, beans and a lot of sugar ! Delicious !
My working space for 3 days was upstairs. It was calm and incredible hot here but a good atmosphere to work. First of all I made the decision which part I chose of the print and what kind of pattern. Marine gave me also some fabrics in unique colors so that I could mix it with the prints. Once all was clear I started – fixing pins, cutting, ironing and sewing.
All the pieces are still in Battambang, so have a look if you are there – n°77, street 2,5, Battambang – or stay updated on her page !
The pieces we’ve chosen are from her beginnings of textile printing in 1993.
22 years later someone came and transformed them into something different.