Khiev Kanel


The White Building, originally known as the Municipal Apartments, is a large and prominent apartment building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, one of the major works of New Khmer Architecture. Designed as a 450-metre (1,480 ft) architectural composition on Samdach Sothearos Boulevard near the Bassac River, it was built in 1963 as a symbol of modernism in Cambodia, part of a large composition of civic buildings.

I worked there when we knew that the almost 500 families still living in the White Building were moving out in July 2017. Following my visual observation, I found out the staircases is a very special space in the building and decided to focus on what happens there. Beside physical function of staircases, it is a small community where people hang out around, chit-chat, playground for kids, people selling stuff, nail salon and so on. And it is a symbol of the relationship that joints the building together from floor to floor, same way of connecting people relation.

The building was, at first, supposed to be make way for a 21-storey mixed-use development. Yet in early April 2019, the government announced that the place was soon to be replaced by Naga3, which is under NagaCorp, the biggest casino in Phnom Penh.


Khiev Kanel (b. 1988, Phnom Penh, Cambodia) graduated in Computer Science and Auditing but turned to photography in 2013. He uses photography, moving image, and performance art to document and tell stories of personal, environmental and social issues. His personal work expresses self-depression and fragile feeling from the loss of family members which could resonate with other people who experience similar issues. His other strand of work concerns social oppression, social justices and human rights, including the problems generated by urbanization and environmental degradation such as eviction, land right and pollutions (water, air, noise, and light).

Kanel has participated in a number of workshops with local and international artists on photography, moving image, and performance. His work has been exhibited widely in Cambodia and regionally. Kanel is a recipient of the Creative Generation Award 2018 from Java and Best Performance Award 2018 (with collaborator YON Davy) from the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.