Pursuing intersecting interests in architecture, the politics of space, and place-making practices, during his residency at Villa Arson Vuth Lyno travelled to Paris to research the Bois de Vincennes forest park. In 1931, the park hosted the International Colonial Exhibition, a showcase designed to boast the ‘accomplishments’ of colonialism wherein pavilions modelled after indigenous architectural styles housed displays of the ‘native’ cultures of the colonies. Some of these structures outlived the temporary exhibition and are still extant today. In the late 1970s, the Cameroon Pavilion was transformed into a Buddhist temple known as La Grande Pagode. In the spring, thousands of Cambodians living in France swarm to the temple to celebrate Khmer New Year occupying the adjacent grounds with picnic mats and makeshift stalls. The community’s appropriation of a public space previously used to stage Eurocentric (mis)representations of those very colonial subjects struck the artist as a self-powered emancipatory practice of place-making and community-building.
Vibrating Park-Forest, 2022
paper, wall drawings, fans
Courtesy the artist
Vibrating Park-Forest ensues from Vuth Lyno’s comparative study of heterogenous practices that unfold in the Bois de Vincennes as well as in Hong Lim Park in Singapore and Democracy Park in Phnom Penh, the artist’s hometown. Known for its Speaker’s Corner—an area where, upon registration with the authorities, citizens can hold demonstrations and political speeches—since 2009 Hong Lim Park hosts Pink Dot, an annual rally of thousands of people in support of LGBTQ communities, freedom of love, and inclusiveness in a country where male same- sex relationships were criminalised until just a few months ago. Democracy Park has a history of entanglement between colonial power, the nation state, and the people. Created at the end of the colonial period, throughout the 1950s the park was used to celebrate the country’s independence and parade the nation building process. In recent years, it became a designated site for political demonstrations until it was closed off to the public following anti-government protests in 2014.
The layered identities of these urban forest parks as sites of contestation, refuge, community building, and emancipation are conveyed in Lyno Vuth’s immersive installation where the forest is turned into a mosaic made of pulsating paper tiles. Fluttering delicately to the movement of the air, the forest’s ‘leaves’ reveal underneath drawings. They depict a diverse range of events that took place at those sites, from manifestations of state power to grassroots initiatives and other informal modes of appropriation by which marginalised communities reclaim public space to enact their agency.
Vuth Lyno (b. 1982, Cambodia) is an artist, curator, and educator interested in space, cultural history, and the production of knowledge through social relations. He often articulates his research into spatial configurations that resonate with personal stories and collective practices. His artistic and curatorial approach is deeply rooted in communal learning and aims to engage a multiplicity of voices in the production of meaning. Besides his solo practice, Lyno is currently Artistic Director of Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh, an artist-run initiative that addresses the lack of infrastructure for contemporary art education and engagement in Cambodia. His works have been featured in several group exhibitions at institutions such as the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Thailand (2020) and the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia (2019) amongst others. With Sa Sa Art Projects, he was a participant in documenta fifteen, Kassel, Germany (2022).