Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Hip Hop Apsara by Anne Elizabeth Moore
JOURNALIST AND CULTURE CRITIC HIGHLIGHTS CAMBODIAN ‘MOVES’
Hip Hop Apsara provides images of a nation’s people emerging from generations of poverty
CHICAGO, IL – July 2012 – “Radical” (L.A. Times), “poignant” (Boston Globe), “should not be missed (Time), “a notable underground author” (The Onion), and “brilliant” (Kirkus) are all ways to describe Anne Elizabeth Moore and her writing. The award-winning author and artist has worked for years with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects, and her newest venture is a compilation of photographs and lyrical essays taking readers to the streets of the country’s capital city, Phnom Penh, and out into the countryside—where few get to travel. Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present releases Aug. 28, 2012 from Green Lantern Press.
Alternating full color and black and white photographs depict Phnom Penh’s bustling nightlife as locals gather to dance on a newly revitalized riverfront directly in front of their prime minister’s urban home, thus forming a portrait of the nation’s emerging middle class. Images from a southern province depict a nation in dialogue with its government, hoping for development that lifts all citizens. A series of essays complement the imagery, investigating the relationship between public and private space, mourning and memory, tradition and an economic development unrivaled in the last 1,200 years.
“Traditional movements push against young passions,” Moore writes. “Development is fluid and janky. But a generation is learning what comfort feels like, learning what it feels like to have survived. To celebrate, to honor, they dance most nights like they are possessed.”
Hip Hop Apsara aims to break through the cavalier and hardened consciousness many hold about Cambodian culture and its recent, violent, past under the Khmer Rouge.
“People seem rooted in this belief that Cambodia’s very far away and very weird,” Moore said. “It is far away, but for 14 million Cambodians, it’s not weird at all – plus it’s a place the US has had a lot of negative influence over. So it seems like we should know something about it, as Americans.”
A Fulbright scholar, Moore is the Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers: Gender and Comics in the US, and the author of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007) and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004). She was co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct Punk Planet, and founding editor of the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin. She has twice been noted in the BestAmerican Non-Required Reading series.
Anne Elizabeth Moore
Anne Elizabeth Moore is a Fulbright scholar, the Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers: Gender and Comics in the US, and the author of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007, named a Best Book of the Year by Mother Jones) and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004). Co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct Punk Planet, and founding editor of the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin, Moore teaches in the Visual Critical Studies and Art History departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
She works with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects, and with people of all ages and genders on media and gender justice work in the US. Her journalism focuses on the international garment trade. Moore exhibits her work frequently as conceptual art, and has been the subject of two documentary films. She has lectured around the world on independent media, globalization, and women’s labor issues.
The multi-award-winning author has also written for N+1, Good, Snap Judgment, Bitch, the Progressive, The Onion, Feministing, The Stranger, In These Times, The Boston Phoenix, and Tin House. She has twice been noted in the Best American Non-Required Reading series. She has appeared on CNN, WNUR, WFMU, WBEZ, Voice of America, and others. Her work with young women in Southeast Asia has been featured in USA Today, Phnom Penh Post, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out Chicago, Make/Shift, Today’s Chicago Woman, Windy City Times, and Print Magazine, and on GritTV, Radio Australia, and NPR’s Worldview.
Moore recently mounted a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and participated in Artisterium, Georgia’s annual art invitational. Her upcoming book, Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present (Green Lantern Press, Aug. 28, 2012), is a lyrical essay in pictures and words exploring the people of Cambodia’s most rampant economic development in at least 1,200 years.
Photo/Essay, 100 pages
Green Lantern Press, Aug. 28
The city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia hosts public dance lessons most nights on a newly
revitalized riverfront directly in front of prime minister Hun Sen’s urban home. Shortly before dusk, much of the city gathers to bust a few Apsara moves and learn a couple choreographed hiphop steps from a slew of attractive young men at the head of each group. Outside the bustling capital city, the provinces come alive, too, as the nation’s only all-girl political rock group sets up concerts that call into question the international garment trade, traditional gender roles, and agriculture under globalization. Cambodia is changing: not what it once was, not yet what it will be.
Following on the heels of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh, Anne Elizabeth Moore compiled photographs that document Cambodia’s bustling nightlife, the nation’s emerging middle class, and the ongoing struggle for social justice in the beautiful, war-ravaged land.
A series of essays complement the imagery, investigating the relationship between public and private space, mourning and memory, tradition and economic development. It is a document of a nation caught between states of being, yet still deeply affecting.
My upcoming book, Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present, is sort of an unusual project for a journalist: it’s a lyrical essay in pictures and words that describes a country moving from a static state of mourning into the most rampant economic development it’s experienced in at least 1,200 years. In image and text, I attempted to explore the state between loss and desire, a beautiful half-noticed sense between smell and sight, between hearing and touch that is pure unverifiable memory. I think of it as an apology, a coming-of-age tale, an exposé, and a love story.
The book looks at a very traditional nation beginning the process of integrating modern life—both the good (cultural forms, like hip hop) and the bad (the uneven distribution of wealth). Told mostly through photographs. It emerged organically from the last five years I’ve spent investigating Cambodia, while it was undergoing the most rapid period of change in its recorded history.
Not everyone gets to go to Cambodia, and certainly not everyone’s had the insider access that I have—I lived with the first large group of educated young women in the country (as described in my last book, Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh), and I can’t even tell you how much gratitude I have for the education they gave me: about food, about tradition, about gender, about language, about social customs, about Cambodia, about the US.
My young friends also took me out to my first big aerobics dance party, the ones that form the basis for most of the images in the book—and tried to teach me all the dance moves, including the Apsara. I can’t dance, though—I mean, I did, but even the otherwise very supportive young women nurturing my cultural education eventually told me I should just stop—so I concentrated on making good, experimental photographic images of what was basically a park full of genocide, mass killing, torture, abuse, and starvation survivors and their children. It’s a beautiful thing to witness: people in public space learning how to trust each other, move their bodies for pleasure, and have figuring out how to fun. People just emerging from poverty, finally able to afford to eat enough that they can spend calories exercising. It was really joyful.
The essays in this piece are my first non-journalistic take on Cambodia, and thus are more playful reflections on the emerging nation than I usually get to put out in the world. It’s also sort of a new view on Cambodia, a place people generally think they know about, that they believe does not and cannot change, because the Khmer Rouge regime looms so large. But it is changing, very very quickly.
A lot of the images are about what happens when traditional forms begin to adapt to globalizing forces. In the public exercise and dance images, traditional Apsara dance moves get combined with hip-hop choreography. They show how people move on from loss. In the final images, of a concert I was lucky to attend in Kandal province of this amazing group of musicians called The Messenger Band, the images are of how traditional notions of gender and sexuality are impacted by the global garment trade and the local sex industry. The concert space offers a chance for Cambodians to rethink that impact, and question who supports it. The book is really about that space, about the moment before tradition shifts, to more efficiently allow for profitability.