Exhibition by Ang Choulean and Ashley Thompson
Lecture in Khmer on August 25, 2004 at 4 pm
Opening Lecture in English on August 26, 2004 at 5:30 pm
This exhibition and accompanying publications explore
a Khmer term often translated as “soul” or "vital
spirit". Pralung are believed to animate human beings as well
as certain objects, plants, and animals. As the pralung are fragile
and can easily be lured away or lost from the person or thing to whom
they belong, many types of rites are performed to call them back.
These generally involve a recitation or performance of the poem known
as the “Hau Pralung”, or the “Calling of the Souls”,
one of the earliest extant literary-ritual works in Khmer.
themselves invisible, pralung are represented in a wide variety of
ways, figuring in numerous ritual celebrations from birth and death
rites to Buddhist ordination. The opening section of the exhibition
considers these representations, with a photographic essay, based
on extensive fieldwork throughout Cambodia, accompanied by explanatory
texts in Khmer, English and French. In the back section of Reyum,
an installation by students from the Reyum Art School materialises
the 17th century poem through representations of the heavens and the
forest. Audio and video presentations as well as wall text allow the
viewer to the exhibition to experience the ritual and its context.
As such, the exhibition is
an attempt to explore the relations between such “traditional”
rituals and the “modern” rituals that are organized in
art galleries. Rather than reifying and museum-ifying the ceremony
through a rigidly scientific or artistic gaze, it is hoped that some
communication can be established between the aesthetic, intellectual
and spiritual experience of the Hau Pralung and that of the exhibition.
catalogue by Dr. Ang Choulean entitled Brah Ling, accompanies
the exhibition. In October, Reyum will publish a book by Ashley Thompson
entitled Calling the Souls: A Cambodian Ritual Text. This
book includes the 17th-century Khmer therapeutic poem, annotated English
and French translations of the poem, and an extensive introductory
essay in English and French.
exhibition and its accompanying publications are funded by generous
grants from the Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation and the Friends
of Khmer Culture.