Human migration has a long-standing history. During wartime, disaster, pandemics, on a pilgrim journey, across deserts, oceans and the wilderness. What enables people to leave everything behind for a new land? Is it their fierce belief in a better life? During my two months in the Pisaot residency program hosted at Sa Sa Art Projects (an artist-run space dedicated to experimental art practices in Phnom Penh, Cambodia) at the beginning of 2014, I conducted field studies in a Vietnamese fishing village on Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap. Illiteracy, poverty, stagnancy, corruption, and authoritarianism were among the several issues this village of 400 households faced. Some families had just migrated here in recent years, and some had called this lake home for 2-3 generations. They could not access identity cards like the official Cambodian citizens.
In many cases, the only document they had was the membership card issued by the Khmer-Vietnam Association in Cambodia. This matter is surrounded by lots of controversy from the political, economic and social perspectives. However, during my stay in the village, I only saw children with no future and heard stories of the power exercised by those with wealth and authority. “Day by day…” was the phrase I often heard while living there, which portrayed their future. These residents do not belong to any nations nor land. They are merely trapped in their own choice, or the choices of their ancestors. In the process of researching, I was in two minds about the necessity and importance of the identity card (ID), along with its impact on people’s awareness and life. Human civilization has created many things, among which is the identity card.
Nevertheless, it has become both a problem and the key to turning their lives around in terms of identity, power, stratification, or dreams to a group of people. Using various methods, including documentation, networking, and intervening, Day by Day looks into the experiences that frequently go unnoticed of this group of Vietnamese (who used to live or are living in Cambodia). The project presents the possibility that the experiences of this community can be both unique and representative of bigger issues.