Issue 19: Planetary Solidarity - Memory

Andrea Fam

Reading time: 10 minutes



… far away, over there, the ocean: Reflections on Trauma and Resistance in Vandy Rattana’s «Monologue Trilogy»

In today’s climate of globalizing polarisation, curator Andrea Fam revisits Khmer artist, Vandy Rattana’s Monologue Trilogy which provides a timely reminder of our anthropological propensity to historical amnesia, and resilience.

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  1. Excerpt from an email exchange between artist Vandy Rattana and the author, his then curator during the Singapore Biennale, for which … far away, over there, the ocean was commissioned. March 27, 2018.

  2. The English word “Cambodia” is an anglicization of the French Cambodge, which is in turn the French transliteration of the Khmer Kampuchae. The country is Kampuchae, and its people are Khmer. The name “Cambodia” is used in many native English-speaking countries, while Kampuchae is used in Asia, particularly in the Indochina.

  3. The title of this essay borrows from the title of this film.

  4. The term speculative reality is a nod to the philosophical movement of speculative realism as coined and developed by Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, and Quentin Meillassoux.

  5. The Cambodian Genocide was the systematic killing of nearly 2 million Khmer at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, the popular name of the Communist Party of Kampuchae, led by Pol Pot. The radical leadership sought to root out those tainted by the capitalist West to create a ‘purified’ Kampuchae, one that harked back to the mythic past of the Khmer Empire. Prime targets for this persecution were the cultural elites whose thinking and teachings were said to be wholly unacceptable and did not belong under the communist regime. The educated, including doctors, lawyers, and current or former police and military, were targets, as were Christians, Buddhist, and Muslims, in order to create a society without competition. These killings would rid a country of an entire generation of thinkers, a loss which is reflected in the slow development of the economic and cultural landscape in Cambodia today.

  6. Metaphysical realism is the view that objects exist in reality outside human cognition. It considers a universe independent of humans; the universe is more than the consciousness of human beings.

  7. Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 10-12.


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