Under the Water: Cambodian Artist Sreymao Sao on the Lived Experience of Hydropower Dams

Soksophea Suong, Sango Mahanty, Sarah Milne, Sreymao Sao

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In this article, we continue to explore how art can ‘unflatten’ our understanding of mega-infrastructure like the Lower Sesan 2 Dam (see Milne, Mahanty, and Cristofoletti’s essay in this issue). We focus on the remarkable work of Cambodian artist Sreymao Sao, who explores the lived experiences of communities displaced by the Lower Sesan 2 Dam—some 5,000 indigenous and ethnic-minority people from four villages (Mahanty 2021)—as well as those living upstream and downstream. Sreymao Sao’s work—as seen in her exhibition ‘Under the Water’, a collaboration with Sa Sa Art Projects, shown at the MIRAGE Contemporary Art Space in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from 11 January to 11 February 2019—explores villagers’ changing experience of their rivers, lands, and lives. The title refers both to the villages submerged by the Lower Sesan 2 Dam and to downstream villages along the Mekong River who are geographically ‘under’ this and other dams. The work resonates with what is now termed ‘socially engaged art’, which is a rising feature of art this century (Coombs 2021). It involves an artistic practice that engages with social contexts through collaborative activities and critical inquiries, stemming from a desire to make a difference, and to address pressing issues like climate change and displacement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)232-239
    JournalMade in China
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Cite this