The following is a portion from the didactic panel that was a part of the exhibition.
‘Untitled’ (2009) delves into the Cambodian genocide that occurred under the Pol Pot regime between 1975-1979. The first panel sets the tone of the pride and tradition of Cambodia with a view of historical Angkor Wat combined with a close-up of one of the majestic faces of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara from Angkor Thom. Trees and wild vegetation grow tightly around the Bodhisattva’s head, obscuring a clear view of its face, and appear as though it is strangling its neck. Trees no longer offer shelter. The land no longer feels safe. In the second panel, the diptych format divides the portrait of a typical Cambodian family into two sections. The portrait is also cropped in such a manner that the heads of two family members are eliminated, making reference to the estimated 200 000 people who were executed by the Khmer Rouge. Shadows from the earth also reach out like lurking arms on either side further attempting to tear the family apart. The third panel depicts Tuol Sleng, also known as Security Prison 21 (S-21), where an estimated 17 000 Cambodians were imprisoned, repeatedly tortured, coerced into “confessions,” and eventually murdered. Vann Nath, 1 of 7 known survivors imprisoned at S-21, is portrayed in the first image walking past prisoner cells. This is a still from the 2002 documentary S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine in which Vann Nath returns to S-21 to confront a few of his former guards, some who were as young as 12 years old at the time, and discuss his ordeal. With the empty room depicted in the second image, I wanted to express the isolation and despair, and the haunting fear that loomed between all the walls and in the air.
Joyce Lau (May 2009)