Erin Gleeson (Phnom Penh and London)

Territorial Altars & Time Travel

Dominant Art Historical methods often malfunction when applied to marginalized geographies. The task of considering exhibition histories of Cambodia (1945 to the present) demands an alterity to modernist notions of exhibition making and contemporary notions of exhibition history making. The plot of linear progress fails, calling for fluid time
travel. The present, post-colonial reading might hover around the fact that exhibitions performed hybrid political intentions during a critical era of negotiating nascent Independence (local) with Cold War pressures (global). Within this framework, strategies and aesthetics of display perform the modern, the national, the secular – seemingly heavily co-opting colonial inheritance, whether passively or intentionally. However, distant flashbacks and crosscuts reveal fecund comparisons that can shake us from the thin
horizon of our momentary perspective. In this case study, time travel
presents the less accessible past and speculates exhibitions as territorial
altars, as sacred as they are secular, as mediums or translators of complex
socio-religious-cultural inheritance.

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Erin Gleeson’s FIELD MEETING participation was supported by Asia Archive in America & Sa Sa Basaac.

Erin Gleeson, Territorial Altars & Time Travel, 2016. Lecture documentation FIELD MEETING: Thinking Practice, November 12th at Asia Society. Photo: Renata Carciofolo.


Erin Gleeson is curator and writer, and the co-founding artistic director of SA SA BASSAC, a non-profit exhibition space, reading room and resource center in Phnom Penh. Most recently she was the curator of Satellite Program 8, Jeu de Paume and CAPC, France; head of research, Exhibition Histories: Cambodia, 1945-2016, Asian Cultural Institute Library Park, Gwangju, South Korea (2015-2016); curator in residence, Villa Vasillieff, Paris, and Advisor for ACC-Rijksacademie Dialogue and Exchange (2016). Erin is currently an Alphawood Scholar, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2015-2017).

Kompong Speu Exhibition Hall, Kabuja Monthly Illustrated Magazine (back cover) October 15, 1966. Second Year Number 9. Courtesy of curator.