photos by Prum Bandiddh


Why Mekong Contemporary Art is Necessary -The role of artists/lawyers in current world-

My name is Yuto Yabumoto and I am the founder of Aura Contemporary Art Foundation. I am also the foundar of One Asia Lawyers1 and I would like to present some of the answers for the reasons why we are supporting the "Contemporary Art of Mekong", why the "Aura Mekong Art Project" is established and why I am supporting local museums of contemporary art and wineries etc.
1. One Asia Lawyers Website

What is peace?

The memory of my childhood. It passes through the forest in front of the statue of a child in my hometown Kumano Kodo. The sun light bursting through the spaces between the trees become stronger and stronger. After passing through the forest, there was a tranquil and beautiful countryside landscape spread out as if it’s painted by Hiroshige Utagawa, one of the most famous Japanese Ukiyoe artists. The moment of being embraced by the light and tranquil nature, is this state of such tranquil peace?

2. Kumano Sanzan (Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha) is a general term for the route to the shrine. Also known as the Kumano Pilgrimage. Located in the Kii Peninsula and the roads spread across Mie, Nara, Wakayama and Osaka prefectures. Registered as a World Heritage Site in 2004.

Source: Honichi. COM

Among Hiroshige's works, I adore the Tokaido Gojusan-tugi (Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō)3, especially the scenery of the present Mie (Yokkaichi-juku) to Shiga (Mizuguchi-juku) that the people were living vividly in nature. Mizuguchi-juku is famous for the people who dry gourds in the rural village and "gourd" reminds me of Laos and its folk tales.

3. the rest areas along the Tōkaidō, which was a coastal route that ran from Nihonbashi in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Sanjō Ōhashi in Kyoto.

Source: Adachi Woodcut Prints

Everything including humans, animals, plants etc. seem to have come out of gourd according to the Lao folk tales. Does it mean that life has no hierarchy? I always feel calm when I arrive in Laos. People on the street, buffaloes and dogs in the "countryside", everything is intimate and calm. However, I loathe the recent urbanization of Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR. Skyscrapers are being constructed which inturn destroys its tranquility.

It has been about ten years since I was involved with Phnom Penh, Cambodia where the company was founded. My two daughters were born in Phnom Penh. Warm relationship with them is the greatest "peace". Days contemplating what kind of world I should leave for my daughters.

Perhaps due to the progress of globalization, the capital city of Phnom Penh has become what we call “urban area”. I feel that people in Phnom Penh have become materialistic and just rich economically.

Source: Khmer Times 

I am convinced of the possible coexistence amongst the principle of competition in modern globalization, the tranquil and rich natural environment of Asia and the calm and intimate Asian people.

Although Benjamin4 defines that the word of "Aura" states as "the evidence exists only here at present where it may be lost from the original works in the era when mass art copies reproduced by machine production", Aura Mekong Art Project is a movement to preserve humanity in "what exist only here at this time" in the Mekong region to the present. In addition to such movements, I believe that it is necessary to reform the lawyers who represent urban elite.

4. Walter Bendix Schoenflies Benjami, philosopher from Germany

What is a lawyer?

I dived into the world of law in order to realize peace however, it becomes hard to know whether or not laws and layers attempt to create a world with no conflicts.

One day, I was working in Myanmar on behalf of a client to negotiate for a joint venture agreement. "Why do you require such document like this for the relationship between you and me". The counter partner who I was negotiating with, threw a bunch of joint venture agreement prepared by myself in front of me. The global standard of the international transactions is to clarify the details specifically as well as comprehensively by stating the matter that any cause or doubt may arise in the future. You are not eligible to engage in global business without accepting such agreements in our modern society. However, I empathize with the attitude of this Myanmar person. Is there such an agreement with no regard to the importance of trust or does it create a cause of dispute if not caring about each other in business?

The visions are spoilt in recent businesses nowadays. In order to select business partners, it appears that it highlights the external aspects such as titles, financial strength, credit investigation report etc. prepared by “authorized third parties”. There is no indication to discuss what to preserve for the future by this deal. How to establish a long-term relationship without a vision? I wouldn’t like such a world that does not seem to describe to establish a long term relationship in the first place.

Words and contract should have been just a tool in order to improve people's life. In fact, legal terms are so complicated too far from making people's lives better. Relatively high-paid jobs are only taking part to express opinions as a third party in order to disclaim the obligations of representatives and directors of a company by utilizing difficult terminologies nowadays. The purpose of lawyers’ work is not to protect society but to protect business representatives. It is promoted on the basis of third party’s view of lawyers in the absence of the party themselves.

In modern society, especially urban elites in developed countries adhere to further improving their skills and capabilities. However, you become more rational, conservative, negative, objective and critical when improving your technical ability, and are involved only in a particular area of the entire organization.

On the other hand, Mekong people are irrational and inefficient sometimes but highly empathetic and proactive. There seems to be a core that it is stable and a philosophy that is simple but confident. For example, when I was in a restaurant in Phnom Penh, my child cried because of the heat. Suddenly, one of the waiter in the restaurant picked up my child to calm, which was quicker than the parents and as if it was as usual occasion. That's right, the first action is so quick. They can take action so quickly because they have a confidence inside.

Source: Khmer Surin

To be one -Tenshin, Juko, Samnang-

Well, what does "One" mean? Our law firm name “One Asia Lawyers” is inspired by Tenshin Okakura5 mentioned in the book, "THE IDEALS OF THE EAST”.

The Ideals of the East 1st sentence 
"Asia is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal"

5. Okakura Tenshin recognized the excellent value of traditional Japanese and Asian arts in the era of Meiji, which was driven by the rapid western deterioration wave, and remained a great achievement in the development of modern Japanese arts as an art administration and an arts athlete.

If there is a vision as “universal love” upon the acknowledgment of the difference between Chinese civilization (A) and Indian civilization (B), it enables to establish a coexistence state of both that is A and B (state that is both Chinese civilization and Indian civilization). 

The Kokoro no fumi "Letter of the heart" is a document sent to the disciple Sumitane Furuichi from Juko Murata the founder of Wabicha, a traditional style of tea celemony. Although Sumitane was famous for his gorgeous collaboration called Rinkan no cha-yu, Juko saw Sumitane's ego, reprove it and use the word of “DO” for the first time which was the beginning of "Japanese tea ceremony". Juko left the word that "harmonize Japanese and Chinese tastes" He stated the importance to harmonize the Japanese tea utensils and Karamono the imported goods in tea ceremony which means DO (vision) is indispensable for integrating differences.

Source: Cha-no-yu Heart and Beauty

Samurai were the key factor behind the development of the tea ceremony. They were as Samurai or tea masters or both while realizing DO. Samurai obtain to became the status of “Shi(Samurai)” in hierarchy system of Shi-No-Ko-Sho (the classes of Samurai, farmers, artisans and tradesmen) in the Edo period, it is because Samurai were responsible for the role to establish a grand design of the entire society. 
In order to draw the whole concept, the lawyer is required to have not only skills and ability but power to involve other people, that is, a vision and aesthetic sense, and act as a professional law practitioner as well as an artist. The Chinese character “Shi” used in the word of lawyer means Samurai.

Source: Mekong Contemporary Art Foundation

There is contemporary artist who uses art fully to change the society in Cambodia. 
"Art is a special word which enables to convey a message to a wider and variety of people more than a single language. It is inadequate that technically you have ability to just draw a picture beautifully and intelligence of what you would like to express through your works is crucial", says Samnang. Samnang creates his works implying a strong social message by utilizing photographs and images fully, and expands his field of his activities by participating in international exhibitions such as Documenta. His nature is popular, humorous, sarcastic as well as realistic in contrast to the negative image of Cambodian history. It is casual but recreating to universal form of entertainment from the tremendous resentment and sadness.

Common theme to his work is the overwhelming on-site policy. He has spent for a year living in a village of ethnic minority in Koh Kong and visited the historic White Building many times when it was dismantled for extracting the essence of the site thoroughly. The important description is to dig up local history and culture, investigate it thoroughly, extract its essence and reform it to universal as a new value. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have to say that there is no contemporary art market in Cambodia. His works are destined to compete against a global world since its creation. Conversely, how about Japanese artists? Are they creating their works like time machine as if following Western-style towards to the Japanese market? Are they creating new value that can withstand global exports after succeeding domestically?
Isn't it the same question to arise for not only in the art industry but also for lawyers and business people?

Words and laws are convenient. However, it does not create the original value even if localizing law that originated in Europe and the United States to an Asian way as a tool, it is just a degraded version. As Juko said that harmonize Japanese and Chinese tastes, we learn from modern global society, leave it and create new global values. Believing that it is the coexistence of "preservation and development of unique culture" and "economic rationality", that is the only way to realize peace in modern society, and I hope that artists/lawyers take the key role of it.

Yuto Yabumoto
Representative, Aura Contemporary Art Foundation

Read more>>
Why the Contemporary Art of the Mekong? - Social Mission and Attractiveness