Cambodian onlookers expressed surprise and wonderment
outside the walls of the French Embassy Monday, where prints of giant eyes
peered back at them, slowing traffic on the street, amassing a crowd along the curb
and eliciting a wide variety of ideas.
Seventeen black-and-white photographs, three meters high, five meters wide, by a French photographer who only uses the name JR, depict
the eyes of women and girls. Some of them are wide open, as if in surprise or
shock. Others are narrowed and seem to depict thought, or sometimes
hopelessness. Some eyes are closed, considering.
Also stuck on the wall is a message from JR, who says the
photographs are a comment on the role of women, and domestic violence. Whatever
their meaning, the giant photos have attracted crowds on the boulevard, as
people slow when they pass, or stop.
Not all fully understand the meaning behind the
photographs, but the installation does generate opinions.
“Those photos want to tell the public, both old and young,
to open their eyes and not park their motorbikes or cars in front of the
embassy,” Pich Sary, a 28-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, said, adding that
while he didn’t fully understand the display, he was trying.
Preap Sopheak, an 18-year-old student from Preak Leap high
school, passing by on his bicycle, said he was “very surprised” and “very
scared” by the photos, “because there are the women’s eyes, open.”
“But I think it is meaningful for Cambodian people,” he
Ou Srey Pich, 23, said she understood that “the pictures
show us to open our eyes, to watch the development of Phnom
Penh. The pictures also want people to see the view of Phnom Penh, and do not want the people to make darkness.”
“All the photos explain that people in Cambodian society
should turn from violence against women and children to promote their roles and
the living of people peacefully,” Puth Sopheak, a 27-year-old graduate looking
for work, said. “Those pictures are very difficult to understand, but I think
those pictures will show the great suffering of women and children who have met
the consequences of war and violence in society.”
French Embassy spokeswoman Fabyen Mansencal said the
exhibition of installation is of women from various countries, especially India and Africa.
The exhibit is important for the Cambodian people “to look at and consider.”