Conceptual Model for Blood Money (2017)
Medical tin, printed money, pump, blood bags, stage blood
In the years before emergence of the Khmer Rouge, Lon Nol led a coup against the Cambodian King that was funded by the United States. US$500 million was sent to Lon Nol under the guise that it be used for agriculture and food supplies. This was accompanied by 500,000 tonnes of explosives being dropped on the eastern side of Cambodia (the real targets being the North Vietnamese supply lines), killing 50,000 Cambodian people. The coup along with the bombings lead to a power vacuum and resulted in the rise of the Khmer Rouge. To this day, the United States are still demanding the US$500 million to be repaid, despite the fact that the money went directly in to the arms that were used against the Cambodian people. The current Prime Minister of Cambodian Hun Sen has labelled it as a “blood stained” debt.
The artwork serves as a conceptual model for the real artwork yet to be made. Conceptual model for Blood Money consists of a medical tin that is filled with Cambodian bank notes (Riel). These particular notes were abolished by the Khmer Rouge, yet people still hung on to them after the Khmer Rouge had dissolved in the hopes that its value would return. The notes remain worthless as Khmer currency. The 1,000 notes in the artwork each represent US$500,000. Blood packs, often associated with aid, slowly drip blood on to the notes, drenching them with blood and physically articulating Hun Sen’s words. The paper money slowly absorbs the blood and becomes unrecognisable. The tank slowly fills with blood throughout the duration of the show. The fully conceived artwork will contain the Cambodian artist’s real blood. The artwork reveals the anger towards the unjustified debt held against the Cambodian people as a method of maintaining and controlling the country’s poverty.