stain is sited on the floor of a classroom at Tuol Sleng, a former high school in Phnom Penh that was converted into an interrogation/torture center by the Khmer Rouge during 1975-79. By photographing sites of aggression and violence, I document the visual residue that remains long after the traumatic event. The stains that cover the floor tiles may simply be the result of the daily wear and tear of high school life, but the viewer is confronted with the chilling fact that these could also be the residue of tortured bodies.


Overlaid on this palimpsest is a stratum of 1970s Western high school culture, consisting of objects that could have been found in a typical Canadian or American high school of that era. These objects are personally significant because I attended high school in Toronto during that era. What superficially appears as popular culture memorabilia is transformed into Barthes’ concept of punctum: these objects have the power to ‘pierce’ the viewer who has a personal relationship with them, generating a recurrent sense of loss on what has passed. The incongruous juxtaposition of these objects to this site is visually banal, but the realization that this culture of objects was accumulating simultaneous with what was unraveling at Tuol Sleng is deeply disturbing. In stain, the floor stains appear to seep into the overlaid objects, absorbing them into the site.


stain is a memorial to a horrifying and deeply tragic event, but also to daily existence as we repeatedly fail to hold onto things and moments in our lives. It documents the human compulsion to sentimentalize the past, halcyon only because of our penchant for blind nostalgia, solipsistic reverie and ignorant bliss.




media: digital print, ink, watercolor on paper
dimensions: installation 260″ W x 52″ H
photo of installation view: Jeff Wells
stain was first shown in a solo exhibition at Anna Kaplan Contemporary, Buffalo, NY.