The White Building

Potter, Martin, White Building Collective, , Sa Sa Projects, , and Koam, Chanrasmey (2017) The White Building. Big Stories Co, VIC, Australia.

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Abstract

The White Building project was a multi-year participatory transmedia project using art as a mechanism for community building and organising in the White Building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The White Building in central Phnom Penh was built in 1963 as part of a modernist vision of social housing for artists and performers. Following the trauma of the Khmer Rouge, where the city was emptied and an estimated ninety percent of Cambodia’s artists were killed, the intervening Vietnamese-backed government sought to repopulate the building with an invitation to surviving artists to return. In recent years, largely due to government neglect, the building has fallen into disrepair and was demolished in June 2017.

However, behind the fading facade and dilapidated infrastructure there was a complex community of over three thousand people including artists, musicians, community activists and everyday city dwellers. This research project archives and explores the role of recent media, art and creative community projects to document the everyday lives of the Building's inhabitants as both a means of resistance and to enable critical reflexivity among participants. The key question posed at the outset of development of the programs was “can localised creative art and media programs amplify the lived experience of a community and positively impact internal and external perception, identification and position?”

To address this question a number of initiatives across a variety of mediums and media platforms were developed. This included development of the Aziza Film School, weekly art, photography, digital storytelling and community organising programs, events and exhibitions in the White Building showcasing creative works by residents for both internal and external audiences, partnership with local groups such as Sa Sa Art Projects who ran a gallery space and artist in residency program in the Building and fostering the development of the White Building Collective - a group of residents and students at the film school who have created high impact films, photography and online works including the Humans of Phnom Penh series. And in partnership with Sa Sa Art Projects the development of festivals, screenings and exhibitions showcasing the work of residents to the broader community and the creation of a community library and archive and the online archive of whitebuilding.org. Through this diverse range of initiatives, there was a desire to not only celebrate and document the living memory of this unique community, but to push back against government and property developers' interest in the site. The research documents how the dominant discursive acts of the more powerful can be challenged through the expression of the 'lived' and the elevation of everyday life. And that the very perception of the space and the sense of place was (re)produced through these interactions across these new and diverse mediascapes resulting in increased collective identification and action.

Research Statement

Research Background Participatory media can be used as a research tool within communities, to raise awareness of local problems, and to develop and communicate local solutions. The 3000 residents facing forced eviction from the iconic White Building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, provided a platform to research specifically how this medium can be used to amplify lived experience of a community and positively impact perception, identification and position.
Research Contribution The White Building Project was a multi-year participatory transmedia project that documented the everyday lives of the building's inhabitants. As creative director of the project, and facilitator of programs and events, Potter's research initiatives included the establishment of the Aziza Film School and weekly art, photography, digital storytelling and community organising programs. The research fostered the formation of the White Building Collective – a group of residents and students at the Aziza Film School – who created high impact films, photography and online works including the Humans of Phnom Penh series. In partnership with Sa Sa Art Projects, the creative works were showcased at festivals, screenings and exhibitions, for both internal and external audiences. The research resulted in increased collective identification, reflexivity and action, and demonstrated how this medium can challenge dominant acts by government and property developers.
Research Significance The resulting archive of images, videos, and other creative works records the community's creativity, stories and living memory in this unique and historically important space in Cambodia. This research received competitive funding including HIVOS Arts Collaboratory, Britdoc UK Creative Catalyst, Bertha Foundation, Asialink Dunlop Fellowship and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust. Works from this project have been exhibited at National and International events including Our City Festival and Singapore International Arts Festival and have been nominated for the prestigious Visible Award.
Item ID: 51742
Item Type: Other
Keywords: participatory media, community media, digital storytelling, Cambodia, space and place, anthropology of space, cambodia, community media, social and collective memory, collective memory, henri lefebvre, everyday life, social history and collective memory in art, architecture and public spaces
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Funders: Arts Collaboratory - HIVOS (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands), Ian Potter Cultural Trust, Asialink, Britdoc, IDFA Bertha Fund
Date Deposited: 30 May 2018 00:17
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media > 190205 Interactive Media @ 40%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200103 International and Development Communication @ 40%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9403 International Relations > 940302 International Aid and Development @ 25%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture @ 25%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 50%
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