Date: 22 – 23 June 2017
Venue: SOAS, University of London
In recent years, the decision to engage with colonial and postcolonial archives has become increasingly commonplace within Southeast Asian film, photography and visual culture. Whilst this renewed interest in archival materials has resulted in an increased awareness of the complexities of lens-based media, it has also allowed practitioners to challenge both the dominant narratives of colonialism and their neo- and postcolonial legacies. In the case of Cambodia and its diasporas, this archival impulse – and its accompanying modes of (re-) appropriation – is exemplified by films such as Rithy Panh’s La France est notre patrie [‘France is our Homeland’] and Davy Chou’s Golden Slumbers. Whereas the former offers an insight into the hypocrisies of French colonial rule, the latter takes its lead from the development of twentieth century Cambodian cinema. Yet despite differing in their aims and emphases, these projects share a number of common characteristics – namely, a desire to foreground the importance of preserving and revisiting archival materials: two imperatives which have acquired a particular significance in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Taking its lead from these recent developments, this symposium will explore the ways in which colonial and postcolonial film and photographic archives have been rearticulated within a range of Southeast Asian political and aesthetic contexts. How have artists and filmmakers sought to subvert existing power relations through the use of colonial images? To what extent have archival materials and technologies allowed for an investigation into the emancipatory potential of the lens? How have these techniques been utilised by diasporic populations? Though preference will be given to submissions which focus on Southeast Asia, we also welcome papers that draw comparisons with other postcolonial contexts. Possible lines of enquiry include:
- The political and aesthetic implications of re-situating images
- Hindu-Buddhist aesthetic conventions and their use/subversion in colonial and postcolonial lens-based practices
- The ethics, politics and artistic innovations of documentary work
- Contemporary artistic practices which explore the themes of space, place and home
- The return of European filmmakers and photographers to the postcolony
The symposium will be accompanied by screenings of two feature-length films by Cambodian filmmakers and a series of short films by emerging filmmakers from Southeast Asia. This programme, we believe, will provide a further opportunity to address the themes raised by the symposium.
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Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and the SOAS Department of South East Asia