People are honoured with medals and different civil awards in recognition of their success, sometimes after they have died. These items have always fascinated me. Life has changed and nowadays the medals from the past have no meaning at all; people just consider them as metal. However they do respect gold, and if the medal is gold, it will be melted down to make something else, and the meaning is lost. Cambodia’s different recent administrations had distinct money and other symbols of government. Such items do not hold anything more than sentimental value out of that context; these symbols of community life changed, as did life itself.
Many people who were rich lost everything, including the respect of the community, as the people followed many philosophies during these different periods, represented here by these medals. People follow the current trend in ideas, purity truth is not found there. The guy in this painting represents successful engagement in all these periods, but it has no meaning at all, because he still has not found purity. And now it is hard to find also; people are jealous and greedy, they never feel they have enough.
This army hat was found in rubbish at the Phnom Penh Central Police Station as it was being demolished. The decoration coming from the hat is the insignia of the Royal Family; a representation of the peacock, which is associated with high status. Blood stains on the body of this shirt belong to one young poor man beaten severely outside my house recently. His attackers didn’t think carefully, didn’t value him at all, somehow finding it easy to destroy a life.
In this painting, there are different fabrics, just as in society our skin is many colours and textures. These fabrics represent how people consider and talk about skin colour in Cambodia.
When young people join the army, they and their families might feel they are serving the country they love, but really they are part of the political power games of strong men. This soldier went to his assignment, but was left there to die alone under a tree, starved to death. All that is left of him is a uniform, a gun and his bones. His family are waiting but they will never see him again; they have lost one member. Nobody will respect his family or support them in any way, after they have given their son’s life for the land they love. His life has no meaning.