Anida Yoeu Ali is one of three leading Cambodian artists to be featured in APT8. Join us Sunday 21 February from 2.30pm for APT8 Live as we discuss the breadth of contemporary performance art in the Asia Pacific region, and the wide ranging issues and contexts it contends with.
The Buddhist Bug is Anida Yoeu Ali’s intriguing performative creation that has enabled her to interact and document the rapidly changing landscapes of Cambodia. Born in the north-western city of Battambang, in the year before the Khmer Rouge (1975–79) took power, Ali, like many of her generation, left Cambodia as a child because of the violent upheavals of the period. Following a successful artistic career in Chicago, she returned to Cambodia with her family in 2011 after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, and the ‘Buddhist Bug’ began to emerge.
Constructed as a tubular costume from lengths of orange fabric that resemble a monk’s robe, the Bug inhabits parts of the city and countryside, infiltrating urban and rural spaces in carefully staged scenarios, and capturing responses from amused or apathetic onlookers. With the fabric revealing only the face and a curious pair of legs many metres apart, the Bug moves slowly and silently, with restrained and inquisitive gestures. The work demonstrates Ali’s interdisciplinary process, combining performance, documentary and public intervention, staged as live events as well as produced in photographic and video presentations. She balances the quotidian and the spiritual, mixing these with an element of the absurd.
Now appearing up to 100 metres in length, the creature was born out of Ali’s desire to reconcile her fascination with Buddhism while being brought up as a Khmer–Muslim woman. She imbues the project with an investigation of otherness, hybridity and transcendence, while concurrently using it as a way to create documentation of her homeland — a country that has suffered from the loss of its scholars, artists and archives, among the many other traumas of the past.
The Buddhist Bug has been performed and documented in a range of locations throughout Cambodia: a campus canteen (Campus Meal #1 2012); on a spiral staircase of a Phnom Penh street (Spiral Cyclo 2012); in an abandoned movie theatre (The Old Cinema 2014); in the Muslim community where Ali grew up (Little Mosque on the River 2014); and in locations across the Cambodian countryside. Ali has also staged a series of live performances of the Bug around the world, including in Fukuoka, Lyon and Singapore
Her most recent work in the series has been acquired by the Gallery and premiered in ‘The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT8): one of the most ambitious adventures of the captivating creature, The Buddhist Bug, Into the Night 2015 shows the Bug in its first night-time appearance, capturing strange scenarios throughout Phnom Penh and the popular twilight haunts of the city’s inhabitants. Overflowing from a tuktuk, the Bug crosses the city, appearing in theme parks, hawker stalls and restaurants, bars, karaoke rooms and nightclubs, evoking puzzled amusement from bystanders and party-goers in its wake.
Self-described as a performance artist, poet and global agitator, Ali’s practice has crossed fields and continents, from spoken-word and Butohesque performances to film and video production. Her works embody palpable social and political messages, and investigations of diasporic and transnational identities are at the core of her practice. Ali was the winner of the 2014–15 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, and she is also a founding member of independent media lab Studio Revolt, along with film director Masahiro Sugano, releasing the award-winning film Cambodian Son in 2014.
The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)
is the Gallery’s flagship exhibition focused on the work of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016
Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia
APT8 Live: Supported by the Commonwealth through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade