Blurring The Line Between Art And Activism

CAMBODIA | PHOTOGRAPHY

Reading time : 3 minutes

Photographs by Pheng Sreysor
Words by Ria de Borja

Published on March 19, 2021

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LINEAL speaks to Pheng Sreysor, who has emerged from Cambodia’s environmental activist movement to become a rising talent in the art world.

Pheng Sreysor was born in 1995 in Takeo province, Cambodia and went on to study Social Affairs at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She dedicated herself to environmental work for several years, but more recently was featured in the Contemporary and Documentary Photography Class  of 2020 at Sa Sa Art Project. It is these works that we feature here.

“When working on my very first art project titled, “Voiceless”, I noticed myself that I have introduced a different perspective into the power of the artworks. While working on the process of artwork creation, I realised that this is a soft yet powerful medium to share inner voices which I have hidden for years, creative images. After going through the process and getting many constructive comments from my photography lecturer, Lim Sokchanlina, my artworks finally came to ‘life’. What I aimed to achieve at that moment was that I wanted to see people, regardless of age, gender and nationality, come to witness, contemplate, reflect and question.  And it has happened the way I expected,” says Sreysor. 

Sreysor used to be an activist, and realised photograpy was in fact a new way she could continue in her mission. As an environmental activist, she used her voice to challenge authorities and the government. She was put in situations that were life threatening and her freedom was taken away. As a photographer, she can still challenge the system through her art. After retiring as an active environmentalist in September, she received a scholarship to study in the Contemporary and Documentary Photography Class at Sa Sa Art Projects.

In the years she spent researching for this project, Sreysor learned a lot. “There are three significant things that I’ve learned from this project.  First, I need to open myself up to new opportunities and challenges because that is one of the ways I can improve myself and walk away from the pressures and fears created by society. Second, I must learn to build stronger self-confidence because it can lead me to unleash all my potentials to create new mediums of artwork. And lastly is being open minded. I learned that when people come to see my artworks, they have different comments and perspectives to share with me. Therefore, it’s very helpful to be open-minded and proactive because I believe different views can lead me to develop more meaningful works.”

She intends to continue her work in this field in the future. “I hope there are exhibition programmes or exchange programmes giving to Southeast Asian artists, especially female artists, to exchange their artistic visions with artists around the globe or exhibit their artworks on the international stage. By doing this, the voices of the voiceless will be widely shared. I will keep doing more!” 

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