បាត់សាសនាខ្ញុំ (Losing My Religion), 2021
multi-channel video installation; HD color and sound
Piecing together videos sourced from the internet, បាត់សាសនាខ្ញុំ (Losing My Religion) comes to grips with the overlooked, often fraught and fragmented media representation of Cambodian history, heritage, and popular culture in the aftermath of the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot’s brutal regime. By mining visual and sensory material culture from a post-Khmer Rouge era, Sam traces and searches for imagery that complicates contemporary Cambodian identity; one that is layered, tragic, joyful, nostalgic, beautiful, spiritual and evolving. This amalgamation is depicted within the work in a process the artist refers to as “video collaging.”
My decision to include the final clips are deeply personal in my own understanding of what it means to be Khmer on film and video, specifically as a refugee child who did not experience the traumas of war first-hand but inherited them—and through this, subconsciously developed a complex and nebulous visualization of Cambodian identity—in all its muddled glory. This piece attempts to offer a more layered picture of Cambodian culture and historiography, albeit I acknowledge it is still very incomplete.
Projecting videos onto pedestals and traditional Cambodian items acts as a poetic meditation on animism—the belief system in Theravada Buddhism that all objects carry spiritual essence. Taking inspiration from myths, cosmology, and folklore, Sam creates this altar-like presence to consider what Cambodians have lost, and what they have gained.
From the artist:
My deepest gratitude to Lena Sarunn, Sophornya Ricky Orng, Katytarika Bartel, my parents Yean Mom and Proeun Sam, and my family, for allowing me to borrow these objects to display in this installation.