Poetry speaks directly to the soul and when words are not enough to portray a message, the different dimensions as used in poetic language carry on with the communication. This is what is happening in Rubber Mann, a 2015 series of videos that is focused on highlighting the effects of rubber farming in Cambodia. There is no doubt that industrialization drives an economy forward but with it comes adverse pressure on natural resources. In 1922, the Cambodian national government consented to the establishment of a rubber plantation that would be taken up by colonial powers1. Today, this agreement still holds but at the expense of the country’s natural resources.
Khvay Samnang’s Rubber Man
This is the backdrop on which Khvay Samnang, a Cambodian multimedia artist produced Rubber Man. It is his belief that for the relevant stakeholders to take action to mitigate this environmental imbalance, people must first see how damaging the outcome is.
The events in the Cambodian province Rattanakiri
The Cambodian province Rattanakiri has been in the local and international news for all the bad reasons, land grabs2 and land related protests3, and this is the location in which the video was filmed. For a period of over two years, Khvay Samnang spent most of his time in the area. Rubber Man is meant to be a symbolic gesture of futile efforts at conserving the environment. He practices the futile gestures as a demonstration of what more needs to be done to bring about significant change.
What happens in the performances
Over the course of the video, the stage changes and each time takes on a depleted picture from the previous. As the main character continues to pour liquid rubber on himself, the effects of his actions are reflected in the changing face of the surroundings. The fact that he is naked throughout the performance is proof that environmental stability controls not only food availability but clothing as well.
Video: Khvay Samnang speaks about Rubber Man, 2015
The message of the work
Of even greater concern to the actor is the destroyed dwelling place for the spirits, which in ancient times resided in the forests. While it is important that the message of the video is clearly understood, the incorporation of humor makes it even more captivating.
Video: Interview with Khvay Samnang, 2013
About Khvay Samnang
Born in 1982, in Cambodia, Khvay Samnang picked up this creative style of performance from his involvement in photography, video, and performing arts. All this experience under his belt coupled with media sources, personal experience and hearsay, his intention is to find answers to unresolved stories for the interest of the people who need intervention.