Footprint of Yantra Man, 2015
By Khvay Samnang
Yantra Man, 2015, Steel and engraved lead, Variable dimensions
Katha, 2015, Raw Cambodian cotton, engraved lead, 4cm x 4cm x 33m
Yantra, 2015, Dyed and woven Cambodian cotton, ink, 300 x 400cm
In his installation Footprints of Yantra Man at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, the artist uses for the first time sculpture and drawings: a life-size metal armour, long panels of red cloth, and a giant cotton string bound with metal plates are each patterned by the artist with various elements referring to political and personal histories between Europe and Cambodia, spirituality and superstition, and power and war. The engravings are inspired by sacred drawings (yantra) and tattoos (sak yant) are each used traditionally in Southeast Asia to bestow magical power and protection, while the cotton string (katha) points to traditional Hindu amulets worn on the body for the same purpose. Khvay uses these elements of the Cambodian belief system as subtle gestures of resistance against continuing histories of colonial domination and oppression, but also as tongue-in-cheek attributes of the artist’s body, whose measurements and traces are within each work. Khmer soldiers, who fought for France against Germany in World War I, received such blessings from their families before they went to war; the artist himself got them from his family before leaving for Berlin.