…Know Know, was a solo exhibition at SA SA BASSAC in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2013.
While visiting the zoo with her parents, a girl walks to a cage where a tiger is sleeping. The tiger wakes up so she takes the opportunity to ask the animal a question. “Why do you live here? Isn’t it nicer where you’re from?
Meanwhile in Phnom Penh…as part of a four-month residency with Albert Samreth, SA SA BASSAC is pleased to open his first solo exhibition …Know Know. Albert Samreth’s practice is shaped by a consistent engagement with systems. Using humor to deconstruct and point at the uncertainty within accepted historic or social narratives, he underlines their role in our application of a priori knowledge. He is interested in the narrative arc of when we decide that we simply know that we know through a study of ontologically rather than epistemologically vestiges of cultural behavior.
Samreth works with communal objects and media that possess an anonymous ownership by multiple publics. He acknowledges the humble enchantment inherent in the prosaic aspects of relationships and the human experience, specifically as played out through interaction with material.
While in temporary residence in Phnom Penh, he uses the city’s materials, whose existence is weighted with a history of becoming told in part through labor, place, and displacement. By taking locally available materials from their everyday place, the artist removes the background from the subject. The exhibition itself acts like a greenscreen; attention is directed to how materials act, where they point to. With handmade special effects and double entendres, Samreth stretches reference points from everyday existence in Phnom Penh towards language, current design aesthetics, and modern art histories.
A row of five identical frames outlining paintings and photographs make Untitled (After Dancers on a Plane). Each work expresses a different rendition and homage to Jasper John’s painting meditations on visual perception, transience, and death. The first frame outlines a photograph including a faux-tile wallpaper recognizable from the audience pavilions at King Sihanouk’s recent cremation and a found tee-shirt reading “Non-Exist Tent” made by the imprint Whatever All Seasons. The last frame is used as a stretcher for clear acetate behind which layers of wall paint were removed and now rest below in a chalky pile. In If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck I’d Have No Luck At All, Samreth auto-biographically customizes the otherwise artificial gesture of the ubiquitous red welcome mat. His mat reads “Pure Luck”; his existence a result of marriage during the Khmer Rouge period. In A Way Out (Frame Work) a rope climbs over two meters towards the ceiling, offering a path of escape.
“Translation itself is an act of displacement.” Says the artist, “myths of material culture transform, meaning moves from one form to another. In …Know Know, the associated tremors are on display.”