The albatross around my neck is my self-doubt. I question my post studio practice creating conceptual work. I entertain my family’s hopes that I abandon these supposed fruitless dreams to settle for a competitive salary as a physical testament of appeasing the vicarious dreams of refugee parents. My doubt clouds my sight. From the bloodline of genocide survivors, my behavior reflects their scrappiness and resourcefulness, rolling with the punches. Objects, things, stuff – the materialist pursuit is shunned by the oppressive modest nature of
Buddhism and the ruptured cultural mess of the Khmer/Cambodian American identity.
Heirlooms don’t exist within the context of the diaspora. For a refugee, clothing, food, and
medicine were all you could have on your person. It makes sense for the next generation, my generation, to rebel and release the floodgates of consumerism and emotional vulnerability. To
covet the preservation of a long-lost past and attempt to recreate in the image of something blurred by historical amnesia is futile. I move forward without the urge to reclaim or reconstruct, but rather reassess and evolve this contemporary iteration of the Khmer American being. The world’s perpetual excess of cultural products, commodities, symbols, and systems provide me with endless fodder to present, mediate, and articulate the struggle of autoethnography. The hyphenated-hybrid-flux of a new generation of Khmers face the challenges of the epic battle of tradition against non-tradition. With language and customs as the key vehicles of heritage, the older and younger generations grow more and more distant and disconnected from their values and aspirations. Opportunities to learn the language were once sparse, but with remote distance learning technology, those who feel compelled to exhume the mother tongue can give it a chance. I find this an asinine endeavor. A generation silenced by fear and the need to forget for the sake of survival allowed their culture to slip. There’s no need nor responsibility to regain what has faded into untranslatable memories, for violent means forced many to write new chapters with new words. The past is riddled with ghosts and bloodshed, the future will only exist if there’s no guilt. The urge of reclamation is often overshadowed by model minority informed/imposed assimilation and the newer generations’ interests in being American consumers. This is the schism I am trying to bridge; do I continue to construct new edifices of philosophy, or do I burn the decaying ancient architecture to light the path towards my own mutation of heritage? Is the trajectory of a neomaterialistic approach to artmaking agreeable to the stubborn formalist values of an audience with a hunger for instant constant satisfaction of content and main-character-syndrome-level attention? I answer these questions with seemingly muted installations, assemblages, and sculptures; though once they are confronted, the loud impact of unpacking confusion and melancholy explodes to capture the gaze and ear of the once distracted complacent viewer. I give you Keomaterialism, neomaterialism blasted with my baggage, a shift of labor from production to that of the consumption of cultural commodities informed by memory/dream/intergenerational trauma-based personal narratives. Things aren’t always as they appear, a pear.