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In 2012, I stayed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a couple of months as part of a cultural exchange project. I had stayed in a room in a slummed building that houses the Sa Sa Art project’s studio. Before we arrived there, They were repeatedly told me not to compare it to the living space in Tokyo. It was already late at night when we arrived in front of the building called the White Building. In front of the building there was a prostitute and a pimp hanging out on a motorcycle, and in front of them was a pile of garbage in a container that smelled bad. At a loss for words, I rely on the local artists to guide them through the darkened building. A bad smell sticks to the nose, and the sound of children’s voices and the TV is leaking out. The living space we finally arrived at was a small room measuring less than 10 square meters. Next to the room was a studio where workshops were used for the students who live in this slum. The toilets, look like the old Japanese toilets. and have a large concrete water tank in which flush my stools and washed my bodies with stored water. The windows are fenced with iron fences, but there is no glass or screen window. The bugs are free to come and go. As if the name “White Building” was a joke, the walls and stairs were blackened with years of dirt and soot and mold.
As I was slowly getting used to life in the slum, a woman who runs a coffee shop next door said, “The corridors and stairs stink. A heroin addict urinates and defecates, so do something about it, please” she said to the Sa Sa members. When I happened to hear about it, I raised up my hand to I’m into that.
As I worked out my cleanup plan, it didn’t seem like there was much point in only me cleaning the building, so I decided to reach out to the neighbors. It’s a cleanup event. Bought detergent, brushes, brooms, and buckets at the market and explain the schedule to residents. It was shot by a Cambodian artist and myself. also shot from the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection (one of Cambodia’s central ministries eliminate corruption among members of parliament and their staff an audit of the fairness of the business) to stands facing the White Building. Cleaning day. At first, I was wondering what would happen with just one person, but gradually more and more people joined in, and most of the families in the community were involved in cleaning in some way. Since the beginning of the White building, the first big cleanup has become so frenzied that the residents would flush out the filthy water without a care for the presence of people downstairs. The dirt and scratches on the walls that had accumulated over the years did not disappear, but the accumulated garbage and filth were washed away and the stench disappeared.
After the event, I became very close to the residents in that neighborhood. They didn’t speak English, but they invited me to dinner every night, and we sat chairs on the aisle in front of their house and drank ice beer a lot. And I found myself walking around barefoot when passing through corridors or going out for a bit.
Four years later, I visit the White building again. The residents remembered me, and start to the beer party. One resident told me that after that cleanup, they had formed an association to clean up, and everyone started cleaning up regularly. However, he told me that the developer had bought the White building and would have to move out soon. Nearby this slum, Chinese and Japanese shopping malls have been built. When I go up to the rooftop and look around, only this building stands there as if it was left behind.
In the summer of 2017, the White Building was demolished by a Japanese company.