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Artist Statement

My artistic practice is largely informed by my experiences as a second generation Cambodian. Our parents and their peers suffer from undiagnosed PTSD as war children, which had a detrimental effect in our homes growing up. Experiencing loss and displacement in my child- and adulthood broke my heart completely, but also set it wide open: I learned to express compassion for others early on, and understood the power of creating space for voices unheard. Today I am especially moved by airing (hi)stories that are painful, complex and decolonial, because I believe reckoning with them will set everyone free.

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My work takes on a myriad of forms: interactive installations, performance, drawing and writing mainly. However, I've expressed myself through different skill sets throughout my artistic career, such as DJing, coding, community building and painting. My work has been described as intimate, meticulous and inherently social.

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“Tol excels at unfolding the link between political and spiritual forms of reckoning. In her paintings, writing, and public projects she draws on her own experience — both of Cambodian tradition, and urban life, in Rotterdam, and London — to provide a profound understanding of what it means for cultures to exist „in the wake“ (as political theorist Christina Sharpe puts it) of tremendous violence caused by imperial expansion, and post-colonial displacement.

Tol vividly demonstrates in her art and writing how „keeping the wake“ can be a practice where communal mourning goes hand in hand with vivacious community building, and how young urban cultures may tap into old spiritual knowledge to acknowledge pain and loss, while seeking a future, and dignity in life.”

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Jan Verwoert. Prof. of Art & Theory, writer & critic.

Samboleap Tol (b. 1990) is focused on creating space for herself and her peers to be semi-public about their personal socio-historical and political grievances and expressing ways for reckoned closure.

Her primary focus lies in unearthing the diasporic psyche, centering on questions of psychological inheritance: 'Which embodied ideas of dignity, love, and family emerge after centuries of colonial brutality? And what role does truth-telling, on a personal and political level, play in restoring faith and dignity in current, past, and future lives?'

Tol has pursued this collaborative practice for over 10 years, engaging with members of different communities across the world - from London to Sydney to Yogyakarta.

Her practice of reckoning is rooted in her ongoing investigations into Theravadin Buddhist traditions of kinship and Indigenous Khmer animist practices, as well as her conversations with her peers and their respective religious practices. She currently holds a particular interest in the mystic remnants from 8th to 14th-century Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms within today's Javanese and Khmer culture.

She connects these current and ancient cosmologies with the social realities of the descendants of postcolonial countries and poses the question: 'How can we mourn, remember, and understand our family members, when they have been taken away from us?'

She tries to make sense of her different sets of investigations through performance and storytelling, using music, drawings and installations, and hopes that anyone listening recognizes she is telling tales of willpower, faith and dignity.

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Short bio

Samboleap Tol (1990) is based in Rotterdam. She is a research associate at The Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN), University of Arts London and a recent graduate of the Piet Zwart Institute, where she won the Piet Zwart Institute's Masters Research Awards.

She studied Fine Arts at Sint Lucas School of Arts and Design (Antwerp) and Central Saint Martins, and also has a degree in Media from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Sydney.

She has performed and exhibited at South London Gallery (2019), Framer Framed (2023), Tate Modern (2018), and more; and has taught classes at Camberwell College of the Arts (UAL) and Willem de Kooning academie (HR). During her time as a bachelor student at Central Saint Martins, she organised the first student-led exhibition in the history of the college (Lethaby Gallery, 2018).

She was a resident at the Cemeti Institute for Arts and Society in Yogyakarta Indonesia from 1st of April until 30 of June 2023 and is nominated for the Dolf Henkes Award 2023.

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