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Saturday, April 11, 2009

LB exhibit shares visions of Khmer lives

By Greg Mellen Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - On the walls are multimedia, photographic and painted works. In a side room is a photo collage of transgender life in Cambodia along with several books by Cambodian-American authors, including Long Beach's Navy Phim and Oni Vitandham. In the center of the main room is a traditional-looking Cambodian figure with the Superman "S" on its chest.

The 2nd City Council Arts and Performance Space is into all things Khmer with the debut of a new show called "Transformation II: Bringing Contemporary Khmer/American Art to Long Beach."

The show features Khmer and Khmer-inspired paintings, sculpture, photography, dance and performance art. There will also be documentary films and a writers' forum with published Cambodian-American writers.

The event is being presented at the 2nd City Council space at 435 Alamitos Ave.

The show builds upon a show that was presented in July, 2008, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at the Meta House Gallery.

That show paired the work of five California and five Cambodian artists, most of whom had never been in each other's countries.

Lydia Parusol, the art manager of Meta House, described the shows as the "first dialogue in an artistic way" between artists from the two countries.

In Cambodia, where most of the population is under the age of 30, in the wake of the Killing Fields Genocide of the late 1970s, a new and vibrant artistic movement is under way and artistic expression is blooming from its ancient but often constrictive roots.

"In Cambodia there are young artists who are trying to go from traditional sculpture to more critical thinking," Parusol said. "They are reflecting society and themselves in the present Cambodian culture."

And on the walls of the gallery, the fusions of old and new Cambodia are represented in many ways, reflecting a "bridge between traditional and modern art," according to Parusol.

Denise Scott, who splits time between the United States and Cambodia, saw the original "Transformations" show and knew she had to bring something similar to the U.S. and specifically to Long Beach because of its large Cambodian-American population.

Furthermore, she wanted to present the show over the Cambodian New Year which occurs in mid-April.

"Transformation II" includes the work from the original show, but then builds on it with performance art and plans to show 12 documentary films that look at the vibrant emerging arts scene in Cambodia, including some major public arts projects and individual artists.

Scott says the two Transformation shows are just the beginning of what she hopes will be an ongoing exchange.

Plans are already in the works for another show at Meta House, with five to seven American artists traveling to Cambodia to not only show work, but engage in artistic exchanges and possibly working with Cambodian artists to create new works.

Scott also plans to have a return show in Long Beach next April.

At this year's Long Beach show, only one of the Cambodian artists was able to obtain travel documents.

The artists featured have studied at Cal State Long Beach, the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, the Chicago Art Institute and Brown University, among others.

Khmer art on display

Transformation II: Bringing Contemporary Khmer/American Art to Long Beach" will run until May 3.

Today's events: An artists' reception from 6 to 9 p.m. with entertainment.

Friday, April 24: From 6 to 9 p.m. a second reception will feature the screening of documentaries and a book signing.
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U.S. Secretary of State wishes Cambodian people happy Khmer New year

PHNOM PENH, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday issued a letter to wish the Cambodian people a happy Khmer New Year, which falls from April 14 to 16, according to the U.S. Embassy.

"On the occasion of the Khmer New Year, I wish the Cambodian people peace, prosperity, and best wishes," she said in the letter made available to the press by the embassy.

"I look forward to the year ahead as our two nations identify even greater opportunities to strengthen our bilateral ties, as well as to work together on mutual areas of interest," she said.

"This past year has been marked by significant progress in our relations, including U.S. military humanitarian ship visits, new agreements to implement assistance programs in economic development and the rule of law, and Peace Corps volunteers in 11 provinces," she added.

This has been the first time in recent years that a U.S. secretary of state wrote to greet the kingdom on the occasion of the Khmer New Year.

In early March, U.S. Embassy spokesman John Johnson once told local media that Cambodia will host a multinational peacekeeping exercise in 2010 as part of a U.S. State Department program.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia has agreed to host a multilateral peacekeeping training event in 2010 as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), an annual Capstone training event attended by GPOI member nations and other regional and international partners," he said.

The event will provide training such as "field tactical and command post operations," but the formal planning and preparation for the exercise will not begin until late this year, he added.
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