A performance art by Cambodian artist Svay Sareth, documented by video recording, and together with the relics, was exhibited at Singapore Art Museum as part of the After Utopia exhibition between May and October 2015.
Sareth walked approximately 250 kilometres from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia and the site of harrowing purges during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. A crucial element of the performance is he lugging an 80-kilogramme metal sphere throughout the journey.
The metal ball scraping against the ground that he would pass was akin to spooning or coining (刮痧), a traditional remedy used in many parts of Asia to purge toxins from one’s body and re-balance the chi (气), especially when one is about to fall sick, by scraping a porcelain spoon against one’s nape or back. Through this act of scraping, the artist might have hoped to symbolically “purge toxins” and “bad chi” from his childhood years, when he spent the first 19 years of his life in a refugee camp.
Bringing just a tarpaulin with him, he would rest on it whenever he needed to and had the chance to. Without preparing any food to be carried along, he would eat whatever food he received from people along the way. Ironically, or purposefully, both sleeping on a tarpaulin and relying on hand-outs for sustenance produced stark resemblance to life in a refugee camp. Was this some sort of approach to liberate one from emotional and mental burden by facing the burden one more time? So as to obtain personal utopia of the mind?
Single-channel video installation with metal sphere
Singapore Art Museum collection