Choreographer and dancer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, composer Him Sophy, and visual artist Sopheap Pich assess the state of Cambodia's arts, from the genocidal era when the Khmer Rouge attempted to erase history (1975-1979) up to the present day. Moderated by Dr. Khatharya Um of UC Berkeley and Dr. Boreth Ly of UC Santa Cruz.
Boreth Ly is Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Art History and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has published numerous articles on ancient as well as contemporary art, photography and film of Southeast Asia and its diaspora.
Born in 1971 in Battambang province, Cambodia, Sopheap Pich lives and works in Phnom Penh. He holds a BFA in Painting from the University of Massachusetts (1995) and an MFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1999).
Working primarily with rattan and bamboo, Pich's early sculptural works (2004 - 2010) addressed issues of time, memory, and the body, often relating to Cambodia's history, particularly with regard to his childhood recollections of life during the Khmer Rouge period (1975-79), and its culture, both its ancient traditions and contemporary struggles. In his recent wall relief works (2011-), Pich departs from the burden of socio-political references. Working with materials indigenous to Cambodia - bamboo, rattan, burlap, beeswax and earth pigments - Pich turns inwards towards his practice itself, its materiality and formal references.
Select solo exhibitions include Compound, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2011), Cambodian Rattan: The Sculptures of Sopheap Pich, The Metropolitan Museum, NYC (2013), and his fourth solo exhibition with Tyler Rollins Fine Art (2013). Select group exhibitions include: dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), Singapore Biennale (2011), Asian Art Biennale in Taiwan (2011), Fukuoka Triennale (2009) and the Asia-Pacific Triennial (2009).
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is a choreographer, dancer, vocalist and educator whose dances have infused the venerable Cambodian classical form with new ideas and energy. Her work has toured to notable venues on four continents, including Amsterdam's Muziektheater, Berkeley's Cal Performances, Cambodia's Les Nuits d'Angkor, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Los Angeles' Disney Hall, New York's Joyce Theater, Venice Biennale, and Vienna's Schronbrunn Palace Theater. Her dances include Samritechak (2000), The Glass Box (2002), Seasons of Migration (2005), Pamina Devi: A Cambodian Magic Flute (2006), Spiral XII (2008), Munkul Lokey (2008), The Lives of Giants (2010) and Stained (2011). Her commissions include those from the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process Series, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Vienna's New Crowned Hope Festival.
Sophiline is a 2009 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship, a lifetime honor awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and a USA Knight Fellowship. She was awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture in 2006 and has received Creative Capital, Durfee, Guggenheim, Irvine Dance and McKnight International Artist Fellowships among many other honors.
Born in Phnom Penh, Sophiline was a member of the first generation to graduate from the School of Fine Arts after the fall of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime and was a member of the dance faculty there from 1988 to 1991. She studied all three major roles for women (neang, nearong and yeak), which is rare. With the school's ensemble, she toured India, the Soviet Union, the USA and Vietnam. She immigrated to Southern California in 1991, where she studied dance ethnology at UCLA on undergraduate and graduate levels. She is co-founder and Artistic Director of Khmer Arts, dual-based in Long Beach, CA and Takhmao, Cambodia.
Sophiline lectures and teaches at conferences and universities around the world. Her many essays have been published in Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (Yale University Press, 1997), Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (Scarecrow Press, 2008); Cultural Identities: Tokyo to Bombay (Centre national de la danse, 2008), Beyond the Apsara: Celebrating Dance in Cambodia (Routledge, 2009), and elsewhere.
Him Sophy's many compositions include: String quartet for violins, viola and cello (1987); A Memory from Darkness: Trio for violin, cello and piano (1990); Decline of Angkor - for soprano, flute, clarinet, cello, harp and percussion (1992); Symphony for large symphony orchestra (1993); The Mondolkiri Landscape - for cello and recorder (1998); I walk...and I cry on the island Poulouway - for recorder flute, alto flute, and bass flute (1998); and The Onomatopoeia of rhythm of ensemble Pin Peat - for recorder, flute, alto flute, and bass flute (1998). His music for dance includes Apsara - Dancing Stone: Music for contemporary Cambodian dance (1994).
Sophy has also written extensively for film, including such compositions as Blood and Life, No Home Too Far, and Cambodia Dreams. In 2008, his musical Where Elephants Weep premiered at Phnom Penh's Chenla Theater. His most recent commission premiered in March 2011 at the Auckland Arts Festival.
Sophy is a professor of music at the Royal University of Fine Arts and the Royal Academy of Cambodia, and an instructor at the Northbridge School. Born into a musical family in Prey Veng province, Cambodia, Sophy began his studies in music in 1972 at the music school of the University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and resumed his music studies in 1981. In 1985, he received a full scholarship from the former Soviet Union to study in Moscow, where he lived for the next decade. He studied piano with Prof. Lvovitch Bogomolov and Anatolievna Rima and composition with Prof. Konstantin Batashow and Prof. Roman Ledeniev. He also studied musicology with Russian musicologist Dr. Yri Kholopov. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in music composition in 1993, his doctorate in composition in 1995 and his PhD in musicology in 1998. With support from an Asian Cultural Council fellowship, Sophy traveled the U.S. as a visiting artist in 2001 and 2002.
Professor Khatharya Um is Associate Professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, and Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of California Berkeley. She received her Ph.D in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Berkeley Chancellor's Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research and teaching interests focus simultaneously on Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian American communities and include politics and societies of Southeast Asia, refugee, diaspora and transnational studies, postcolonial studies, and genocide studies. She has written widely on the Cambodian genocide and on conflict and post conflict issues including the experiences of women survivors of genocide. Her current research interests center on the politics of memory and commemoration, with a special focus on second generation "postmemory."
In addition to her academic work, Professor Um is actively involved in community advocacy. She has served on numerous national and community boards and has received numerous recognitions for her social justice works and leadership roles, including recognitions from Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Anna Eshoo. She was a 2011-2012 Chancellor's Public Scholar.