World Water Day art party and fashion show by The Rubbish Project. March 22 at the FCC Angkor, 6:30 p.m.
Cambodian artist Leang Seckon plans to celebrate World Water Day by raising a 5-meter-high, 250-meter-long mythical serpent from the waters of the Siem Reap River.
Not spectacular enough? Well, the serpentine sculpture is made entirely of trash.
Don't recoil: In Cambodian legend the appearance of a naga often serves as a premonition to bad fortune, and Leang's "Queen Naga" is no different.
"The naga is rising from the water," Leang says. "But she is covered in trash."
Built from 1,000 meters of rattan, and decorated with a ton of rubbish, the "Queen Naga" will stand in the Siem Reap River outside the FCC Angkor for about two weeks, say project organizers. Its unveiling will mark the opening of World Water Day celebrations at the FCC Angkor on March 22.
Once celebrated as a place for spiritual cleansing because of its pristine waters, the Siem Reap River, like many of Cambodia's waterways, is increasingly under strain from urban development.
In 2005 Leang founded The Rubbish Project, a semi-informal artists' collective, as a means of raising awareness of environmental issues affecting Cambodia. The Rubbish Project first made headlines last year with the hugely successful "Rubbish Fashion Show" held at Elsewhere in Phnom Penh.
As follow up to the "Queen Naga" installation, Leang will turn the typically placid FCC Angkor garden into a pulsating outdoor catwalk. With the help of Fleur Smith, a contributing artist on the project, the pair expects to show about 20 designs taken from last year's inaugural gala.
Made entirely from garbage, Leang's designs include bottle-cap apsara blouses, Coke-can earrings and sleeveless V-necks made from recycled dog food bags.
The Elsewhere show drew a crowd of several hundred and created a buzz around Phnom Penh for months. The FCC Angkor show could be just as big. In the spirit of the debut event, which started modestly but snowballed as the arts community joined in spontaneous volunteerism, dozens of local artist are lining up behind the FCC Angkor show.
German videographer Frank Schlichtmann will project a huge video display as a backdrop to the catwalk. Other artists recently donated artwork for an auction, including many names from the vanguard of contemporary Cambodian art such as Chim Sothy, Sway Ken, Sous Sodavey, Pich Sopheap, Im Rien, and Vandy Rattana and others. The auction raised about $3,000, says Smith, who helped organized the auction.
Garbage isn't as inexpensive as it sounds. Smith puts the cost of materials to build the naga at about $1,000, and several times that to produce the whole show.
Along with the FCC Angkor, ANZ Royal and the World Wildlife Fund are helping with facilities and production costs.
In conjunction with the World Water Day events, an untitled exhibition of Leang's artwork will hang in the FCC Angkor during March.
Leang Seckon founded The Rubbish Project in 2005 after taking a boat trip up the Stung Sangker River in Battambang on his way to Siem Reap.
In the 1960s singer Sin Sisamouth immortalized the river's deep blue, crystal clear waters in "Dorng Steung Sangker." And that's the vision Leang had when he set off from the dock in Battambang.
But the days of Sin Sisamouth's Stung Sanker were long gone by the time Leang got there. What the artist found instead was a river the color of milk chocolate with banks lined with multicolored plastic bags and other refuse.
Insipired to act, Leang consulted Smith, a fellow artist and friend from New Zealand. Smith told Leang about her country's Trash to Fashion Awards, the massively popular recycled art/fashion show, and The Rubbish Project was born.
The United Nations estimates that more than 1 billion people depend on potentially harmful sources of water. According to the UN, this perpetuates a silent humanitarian crisis that kills some 3,900 children every day and stymies progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The consequences of this problem are the dimmed prospects for the billions of people locked in a cycle of poverty and disease.
The root of this catastrophe lies is grim: four of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine, and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking water.
Since 1993, the UN has designated March 22 of each year as the World Day for Water and has urged member states to honor the by promoting awareness of safe water practices.