Albert Samreth’s recent solo show “Know Know” began with the following anecdote, sent out in an email blast introducing the exhibition:
“While visiting the zoo with her parents, a girl walks to a cage where a tiger is sleeping. The tiger wakes up so she takes the opportunity to ask the animal a question. “Why do you live here? Isn’t it nicer where you’re from? Meanwhile in Phnom Penh…as part of a four-month residency with Albert Samreth, SA SA BASSAC is pleased to open his first solo exhibition …Know Know…and Somewhere in Glassell Park, California, a pile of fire wood sits…”
Albert Samreth, a native Angelino, spontaneous art producer and rigorous human being, marked his four month residency at SA SA BASSAC (an exhibition, residency space and resource center dedicated to curating, mediating, and archiving contemporary art projects and dialogs in and from Cambodia) with a dynamic collection of fabricated sculpture and painting, utilizing local Cambodian resources to redirect our prior notions of seemingly familiar objects into something more. Additionally, by displacing locally available materials from their everyday place, Samreth “keys out” the background from the subject, creating a green screen like effect; attention is now directed to how materials act and where they point to. With handmade special effects and double entendres, Samreth stretches reference points from everyday existence in Phnom Penh towards language, current design aesthetics, and modern art histories. Creating an open platform for his objects, Samreth suggests a larger vantage for interpretation, where language and meaning intersect freely into a multitude of possibility.
Albert Samreth’s practice is shaped by a consistent engagement with systems. Using humor to deconstruct and point at the uncertainty within accepted historic or social narratives, he underlines their role in our application of a priori knowledge. He is interested in the narrative arc of when we decide that we simply know that we know through a study of ontologically rather than epistemological vestiges of cultural behavior. Samreth works with communal objects and media that possess an anonymous ownership by multiple publics. He acknowledges the humble enchantment inherent in the prosaic aspects of relationships and the human experience, specifically as played out through interaction with material.
Five identical frames of paintings and photographs in a row make Untitled (After Dancers on a Plane). Each work expresses a different rendition and homage to Jasper John’s painting meditations on visual perception, transience, and death. The first frame outlines a photograph including a faux-tile wallpaper recognizable from the audience pavilions at King Sihanouk’s recent cremation and a found tee-shirt reading “Non-Exist Tent” made by the brand Whatever All Seasons. A painting in this row uses the frame as a stretcher for clear acetate barely touched by oil paint.
By simply nailing a baguette to the wall, Civilization frames the everyday choreography of ants. In If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck I’d Have No Luck At All, Samreth auto-biographically customizes the otherwise artificial gesture of the ubiquitous red welcome mat. His mat reads “Pure Luck”; his existence a result of marriage during the Khmer Rouge period. In A Way Out (Frame Work) a rope climbs over two meters towards the ceiling, offering a path of escape.
A navigational tool and document for a traveling body, …Know Know poses various options and ways for interpreting our experiences while moving through spaces, placing acute and general observation onto equal planes. Samreth, a consistent traveler, suggests that we re examine the most familiar of situations and common place surroundings with a sharp lens, rediscovering, or for the first time becoming aware of our environments, and to be sure to have fun in the process.
Translation itself is an act of displacement; myths of material culture transform; meaning moves from one form to another .In …Know Know, the associated tremors are on display.
-Contributed by Alberto Cuadros