Southeast Asian Refugee
For my graduate exhibition, instead of having a show in a gallery, I rented a Cambodian house, hoping that the audience would have more genuine experience of Southeast Asian culture in its own neighborhood, – a neighborhood brimming with laughter, but also on the edge of sorrow.
Here I didn’t use any fancy frames, but rather taped all the photographs on the walls or bought cheap frames from a yard sale, a method that my refugee friends often used when I gave them prints. Also in the main corner of the living room, I built an installation using barbed wire, an enlargement of a refugee camp in Thailand. Soon this site became a shrine where relatives of refugees came to see their loved ones’ portraits, behind the barbed wire. Some even left letters; one Cambodian monk left a precious photograph of himself taken in the backdrop of the temple of Angkor Wat, a place at the time forbidden. I was very moved that photographs could serve beyond a record of place, but also a place to submit your grief.