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To flow

You can smell the resort atmosphere the minute you get off the plane in Siem Reap, the city of World Heritage site, Angkor.The sound is different. The chirping and singing of crickets and birds in the evening, a little mixed with something being built in the neighborhood, the kids frolicking at the pool.

I reserved a hotel afar from downtown, so the quietness is felt fully. The air is also better than Phnom Penh.

I wasn’t satisfied enough with just a visit to Phnom Penh to fully understand Cambodia, and wished to research a different environment where is established as a city. It’s good to realize every idea in your head. When I visited SA SA BASSAC on the first day of Cambodia research, the artist I met - SVAY Sareth - who’s artworks were just being dismantled from an exhibition, coincidentally lived in Siem Reap. Meta contacted him so we could meet again. Or more precisely, he was kind enough to have invited us to his home/atelier in the making.

Passed through the downtown area, the district turned into a residential area with spattered housings. His place was at one corner of the area. Next to his house is an empty land, and he says the house was just the same when he moved in 2 years ago.

This is the future atelier, and here an open space where art related talk events and such can be held, and here, is going to be a pool for my daughters…

It sounds like a mansion written in text, yes it was roomy but with enough compactness. His wife who’s also an artist was fully in charge of the well-kept garden which would fill the evening with flower scents.

We spread a straw mat on a corner of the garden. He showed me some of his pieces, talked about a bizarre (that’s the only adjective that describes well…) art project he participated in India, about the relationship between Cambodia and his pieces, about the silk company where he works, and about the art scene and activities in his hometown Battambang, and so on.

After hearing him talk, I knew he was it. The numerous stories I stocked from Phnom Penh all seemed to be pointing to him, I even thought he was the goal of the Phnom Penh + Siem Reap trip.

I got to know his strength and elegance, plus he treated me lunch.

Incidentally, Khmer cuisine in Cambodia is so tasty. It’s too good to be called a “non-spicy Thai” or “moderate Vietnamese”, with its warm flavor with lots of veges and the delicate use of herbs. I wonder what they use to make the soup stock… some may only be with veges.

It’s so gentle but yet rich in taste, I can’t stop eating.

During my stay, the Angkor PHOTO Festival & Workshops was being held and photos of remote Cambodia archived at E.F.E.O(ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT) were exhibited in the dim garden. I appreciated the monochrome photos of Angkor Wat and its people while being bitten by the mosquitos.

This made me want to see the real thing, so the next morning at 7am I was on a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) to Angkor. I’m not so into tourist sites, but it is kind of bizarre not to see Angkor Wat while visiting Siem Reap, right? I chose the cool aired morning and went on a short course to walk (the full course needed at least 3 days). I knew there would be tons of photos from all over the world so I didn’t take any photos of the place, and only relaxed and walked slowly feeling like the monks who were praying, like from the antique photos I saw yesterday. But there were too many tourists and my humble walk was ruined, so I chose the elephant ride to see the second ruins.

This is my brain: too high up, it’s so swingy, oh it’s scary, wait it’s refreshing… no, too swingy, too high, but it’s refreshing… This kept on repeating but the view was magnificent.

There really were tourists everywhere, of course at Angkore Wat but at the hotel and in the city. So I can only hear the foreigners (though of course I am also a foreigner). The locals spoke fluent English, and even a little Japanese on occasion, German and French in that case.

I guess that’s normal for a tourist site, but it made me feel rather strange in a city packed with tourism it even felt futuristic. What country is this?

So. I was seeking to hear the sounds made by the locals, and Siem Reap is known for silk making.

I decided to visit the best of the silk makers, Artisans Angkor Cambodian Fine Arts and Crafts and their Craft Work Shop (they also have a crafting studio and organizes job trainings), along with the Silk Farm.

Rap a tap tap, whirr, the sound of the wood shaving and metal carving, spin spin spins the silk spinning machine, flap a tap stop on repeat at the weaving machine. The machines were made of wood, and the swift weaving rhythms integrated.

There were guides at the Work Shop and there was even a Japanese guide at the Silk Farm who all guided free of charge.

Instead I buy tons of nice silk goods and clothing at the next-door shop instead, but there’s no loss in buying from them. Their design is refined and above all the quality is superb.

They hire 1200 people including 900 artisans, and through the employment increase the local family income and prevent depopulation in the rural.

Really, it’s a great, unforced system. There are limits to donations, but to pass on the traditional handicraft and textile techniques to the younger generation for them to manufacture and make business, has a future. And having seen the engravings and the Buddha statues literally everywhere at Angkor Wat emphasized my way of thinking from a historic angle. The research here at Siem Reap, including the order of visits, was absorbed intuitively.

Anyhow, I came to be really fond of this place, but I still didn’t know how much possibility was hidden here in Siem Reap. Can I OPEN a GATE in such a tourist-burried location? But I wanted to do that, strongly. And now, with less than a day, I think I’ll go wonder in the flow in search for further possibility.

Seeking for a place where not only tourists but the locals can participate.

Siem Reap (シェムリアップ)世界遺産アンコール遺跡群のあるこの街は空港に降り立った瞬間からリゾート地の雰囲気を匂わせる。聴こえてくる音が違う。夕方になると鈴虫のような虫の声や鳥の声、入り混じって隣りは何やら建設中であるが、あとはプールではしゃぐ子供の声。


Cambodia を感じるには Phnompenh だけでは物足りなく、全く違うけどもう一つ、都市として成り立っている場所をリサーチしたかった。いろいろやってみるものである。カンボジアリサーチ初日に訪れたSA SA BASSAC でまさに撤収されている最中だった作品の作家 SVAY Sarethさんは、なんとSiem Reap に住んでいるという、Metaさんが彼に連絡をとってくれ、彼に会えることになった。というか彼の住宅兼、建設中のアトリエに招待してくれることになった。



こう書くとどんだけの豪邸なんだとお思いでしょうが、でもそこそこ広く、かつ、いいコンパクトさも兼ねそえてます。お庭は同じくアーティストの彼の奥さん Yim Maline さんが一手に引き受けて綺麗に整えていて、夕方になると花々の香りを楽しめるそう。

その庭の一角にゴザを敷き、彼の作品をいくつか見させてもらいつつ、インドで参加したおかしな(とかしか言えない、、)アートプロジェクトの話や、Cambodiaと彼の作品の関係、彼が仕事としているシルク会社の話、彼の出身地 battambang のアートシーンやアート活動の話、、などなど。

話を聞くとどう見てもキーパーソンである。Phnompenh で数々聞いた話がことごとく彼につながっていき、この Phnompenh→Siem Reap の旅はここにたどり着く為だったのか、、とさえ思ってしまった。。


ちなみに Cambodia のクメール料理は本当においしい。辛くないタイ料理、おだやかなベトナム料理と簡単に言うのはもったいない、Khmer にはクメールの味わいがあり、野菜も多く、ハーブの使い方が素晴らしく見事。ダシも何でとっているのか、、もしかして野菜だけのもあるかもしれない。


ちょうど滞在中に Angkor PHOTO Festival & Workshops が開催されていて、E.F.E.O(ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT)にアーカイブされている昔のカンボジアを撮影した写真が庭先の暗がりの中で展示されていた。蚊に刺されながら鑑賞する野外に飾られた昔のアンコールワットと人々のモノクロ写真がとても興味深かった。






その中でも抜きん出た完成度の Artisans Angkor Cambodian Fine Arts and Crafts に Craft Work Shop(クラフト工房、職業訓練もしている) の見学と Silk Farm を訪ねてみる事にした。


Work ShopもFarm もガイドさんがいる、ファームでは日本語のガイドさんもいて全て無料。

その代わりに隣接された Shop でしこたま素敵なシルクのグッズや洋服を買ってしまうのですが、ここのは買って損はない、デザインも洗練されているし、何より品質がいい。

900人の職人を含む 1200人の人々を雇用し、それにより家族の所得を増やし、農村の過疎化も防ぐ。

なるほど、自然でいいシステムだ、と思った。寄付には限界を感じるが、自らの国の伝統工芸や織物を若い人に継承し、物を作り、売る。そしてそれはアンコールワットでみた見事にどんな場所にも刻まれていた彫刻や仏像を目にしたからこそ、歴史をさらに感じ、この Siem Reap の滞在は訪れる場所の順番も含め、自然に理解していけるリサーチとなった。

さて、私は本当にここが気に入ったのですが、はてさてこの Siem Reap にどこまで可能性が秘められているのか、まだ分からない。観光客であふれたこの場所で GATE は OPEN できるのか、でも何かしたい、と感じた。そして残り一日もない今でも可能性を求め、もう少し流れにのって彷徨ってみようと思う。


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