In October 2009 photographer Vandy Rattana traveled to those Cambodian provinces most severely bombed by the U.S military during the Vietnam War. The goal of this journey was to reopen dialogue with local villagers on this traumatic history and to document the scarred landscape as it exists today.
Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped an estimated 2,756,941 tons of ordnance across Cambodia’s countryside. Today, the craters created by this action are known as “bomb ponds.” These water-filled oases conspicuously emerge from the midst of Cambodia’s lush green rice fields. Untouched and unnatural, these ponds remain as underdiscussed monuments from one of American history’s most controversial eras.
Unsatisfied with the level of documentation and investigation produced on the subject, Vandy Rattana decided to rectify the lack of discourse by producing a series of landscape photographs testifying to the existence of these craters as well as filmed interviews in which he asked villagers to describe either their memory of the bombing or their present understanding of the history symbolized by the craters. The resultant work is being exhibited for the first time at CCS Bard, with the hope that audience members will reconsider this historical thread and the extent of America’s actions during the Vietnam War.
Born in Phnom Penh in 1980, Vandy Rattana has been photographing his native Cambodia for the past eight years. His practice is devoted to creating documents that elucidate the hidden realities of contemporary Cambodian existence while creating a more comprehensive historical record for future generations of Cambodians as well as international audiences. His two most exhibited series include Rubber Plantations (2008) and Fire of the Year (2008). Rubber Plantations documents the growing and harvesting of rubber, Cambodia’s largest export while Fire of the Year chronicles a small district outside of Phnom Penh as it is razed by a commonly occurring fire. His most recent exhibitions include: TADAIMA: Looking for Sweet Home Exhibition of Asian Contemporary Art at Kyushu University, Japan (2009); Magnetic Power Group exhibition organized by Asean-Korean Center, Seoul, Korea (2009); Forever Until Now: Contemporary Art From Cambodia (2009) 10 Chancery Gallery, Hong Kong.
Monday, April 12, 5 – 7 p.m.
Olin 102, Bard College
“The Presence of the Past,” a lecture by curator Erin Gleeson, who has been based in Phnom Penh for the past eight years, and a screening of The Land of Wandering Souls by Rithy Panh, Cambodia’s leading documentary filmmaker and founder of Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center.
The Bomb Ponds is curated by Francesca Sonara as part of the requirements for the master of arts degree in curatorial studies.
Student-curated projects at CCS Bard are made possible with support from the Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg Student Exhibition Fund; the Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Family Foundation; the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation; the Board of Governors of the Center for Curatorial Studies, and by the Center’s Patrons, Supporters, and Friends. Special thanks to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.