Overnight exhibition celebrates the resilience of Cambodian arts


More than 50 Cambodian and foreign artists are coming together to hold an overnight rooftop exhibition on December 30. The Phnom Penh event will celebrate the post-Covid-19 resurgence of the Cambodian art scene.

Highrise Arts: The Night of the Stars will be open to the public from dusk till dawn, free of charge. Guests can expect a supersized video installation, visual art displays, photo slideshows, live painting, music performances, ambient sound art, top DJ sets and vintage turntablism.

“It also features a telescope so attendees can get a closer look at the celestial stars, as well as the human ones,” said organiser Nico Mesterharm, director of the Cambodian-German Cultural Center Meta House, a member of EuroCham.

Mesterharm said the event will be the first of its kind, a ten hour art and music pop up festival on one of the most stunning rooftops the capital has to offer.

He expected Highrise Arts: The Night of the Stars to attract people of all ages, many of whom would not normally attend an art gallery.

“One of the things that makes this event stand out is that we will meet people where they are, where they like to hang out, where they like to party – with a stunning 360-degree-view of modern Phnom Penh from the 36th floor,” Mesterharm told The Post.

Covid-19 has been a big challenge for local artists, as they rely heavily on tourism and public events to sell their work, he said.

Venue-based sectors such as museums, cinemas and galleries were the hardest hit by social distancing measures and lockdowns.

The event not only aims to showcase the work of artists living and working in Cambodia, but also to provide an opportunity for the city’s different art organisations to network.

“The future of the Cambodian arts scene depends on strong cooperation among the arts sector,” said Mesterharm.

He said EU-Cambodia relations were established when the Kingdom and the European community signed a cooperation agreement in 1997.

Since then, many Europeans have made Cambodia their home. The project Highrise Arts: The Night of the Stars is executed by the Cambodian-German Cultural Center Meta House, a member of EuroCham.

This event will feature a number of European artists, including Roberto Traina (Italy), The Quantum (France), Phil Javelle (France), Anders Jiras (Sweden), Olga Shklyar (Russia), Christoph Wolter (Germany), Dj Lefty (Hungary) and Nick E. Meta (Germany).

It will also feature a number of local and foreign photographers, whose work will be shown on two large video screens.

This includes the stunning black-and-white work of American photographer Steve Porte, who has been documenting Cambodia’s music and arts scenes for almost a decade.

As the event is called &The Night of the Stars&, the organisers are proud to showcase a video installation by Roberto Traina, which captures the Milky Way over Angkor Wat. Another star-related entry comes local photography collective “Astrophotography Cambodia”.

“Unlike in Thailand and Vietnam, astrophotography is not very popular here, but we believe there are more people out there that share the same interests as us,” said Jiper “Sonic” Duran, of the astrophotography collective.

“The purpose of organising this event is to let our fellow space enthusiasts know that they are not alone,” he added.

The oldest participating artist is Cambodian VR-painter Svay Sanuch. Equipped with modern digital tools such as VR glasses, Sanuch pays homage to his late brother, Cambodian naïve painter Svay Ken (1933-2008) by creating a “Virtual Gallery”.

American animator and musician James Spek will stage a 30-minute interactive music performance dedicated to Cambodian construction workers with the backdrop of the Phnom Penh cityscape.

The event will also showcase the winners of the 2022 photography contest held by the Imagery Skills Academy, in cooperation with With Mycam Camera Shop.

Two foreign visual artists who live and work in the Kingdom – Stan from France and Art Foo from Singapore – will demonstrate their skills through live painting.

The Cambodian collective “Ur Hobby Station” will display their elaborate Gundam plastic models.

Mesterharm said a few artists have agreed to sell their works at the event, including Eriq Henri Madsen (USA) and the artists off Nowhere Studio (Malaysia/Korea).

“However, all of the artists who participate will be eager to meet interested buyers, journalists and the broader public to introduce them to their commercial work, exchange contacts etc,” he added.

The exhibition encourages its audience to support all of the artists who are living and working in Cambodia, he continued.

Highrise Arts: The Night of the Stars opens on December 30 from 6.00pm to 4.00am at the Perch Bar 6:00PM to 4:00AM at the Perch Bar rooftop overlooking Phnom Penh.