Published: May 21, 2019 By

On March 5, 2019, as part of the larger screening series, “Urgent Elements: Eco-Video from Southeast Asia,” the University of Colorado, Boulder presented work by the two internationally prominent artists, Khvay Samnang and UuDam Tran Nguyen. Visiting from Cambodia and Vietnam, respectively, these artists each screened one of their recent moving-image pieces concerning environmental destruction in Southeast Asia. Following this presentation, Khvay and Nguyen came on stage and engaged in a thoughtful conversation about their work with Assistant Professor Brianne Cohen (Department of Art and Art History), also answering many questions from a larger audience of faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, staff, and community members. Khvay Samnang discussed his two-channel video installation, Preah Kunlong (2016-17), which centers on the threat of a hydro-electric project in southwestern Cambodia that could destroy the livelihood of the indigenous Chong people in that region. UuDam Tran Nguyen, in turn, elaborated on his three-channel video installation, Serpents’ Tails (2015), concerning air pollution in Ho Chi Minh City caused by the rampant use of motorbikes. Each artwork features the expressive medium of dance in order to highlight the bodily harm inflicted on individuals, communities, and ecosystems by these larger, ecologically deleterious processes. Overall, the conversation following the screenings opened up many pressing questions about the ethics of rapid, economic “development” in Southeast Asian contexts and more broadly, how artists may tackle questions of both human and nonhuman environmental justice through poetic-documentary forms.