Where Is My Land?: Sand Extraction, Land Reclamation, and Artistic Imagination in Cambodia and Singapore

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When placed within the logic of extraction, sand is perceived as useful matter, but is it possible to imagine it as a site with its own temporal and spatial organising principles? Can those foreign principles offer a pathway towards recalibrating our relationship with our surroundings? This article examines issues brought about by sand dredging in Cambodia and land reclamation in Singapore by discussing the work of contemporary local filmmakers and artists such as Charles Lim, Yeo Siew Hua, Tith Kanitha, and Kalyanee Mam. Their work discloses distinctive aspects of this multifaceted dispute, often visualising what otherwise reaches us as abstract data. Whereas the works of these artists heighten the dimensionalities of experience, the works of Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang, namely Enjoy My Sand (2013–15) and Where Is My Land? (2014), offer us a dislocated glimpse into the conflicting narrative of extraction: the playful character of the former invites us to share and be comfortably complicit in the coloniser's enjoyment of Cambodian natural resources. Through a contained yet highly sensorial choreography, the visual language of the latter work transmits the devasting consequences of sand extraction. Instead of representing the conflict, or the sides of it, these works invite us to think through sand by bringing about forms and methods of engagement with non-human multiplicities that contain unique ways of embodying temporality beyond colonial notions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-30
Number of pages28
JournalSoutheast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

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© Ana Bilbao

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