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The Khmer Cloud Making Service in action (gif by Hyperallergic)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Somewhere in the city, there are white Mercedes Benzes, peace signs, and hearts floating up into the sky. Contrasting with Phnom Penh’s grime and chaotic traffic, the playful bubble shapes float away almost miraculously, effervescent sculptures popping out on demand for parties and festivals.

Khmer Cloud Making Service’s flyer (all images courtesy Khmer Cloud) (click to enlarge)

This isn’t “Bubble Machine BGSP #5” (1967–2016) by the early Filipino conceptual artist David Medalla, it’s Khmer Cloud Making Service, a Phnom Penh business offering customizable foam printing services for events. Opened earlier this year, the company offers ephemeral works for events and corporate programs. They are most frequently hired to deploy cloud art at the openings of new businesses, a staff person told me over the phone.

The foam machine consists of compressed air mixing with a foamy liquid, like soap, and a fan blowing the bubbles up and out. A staff person monitors the machine, and quickly cuts the foam shapes when they reach their intended size, releasing them into the air. Khmer Cloud Making Service currently employs four people, working near Boeung Keng Kang Market. You can rent out their services for $500 an afternoon.

A Khmer Cloud Making Service staff member prepares the foam printing machine.

Khmer Cloud Making Service suggests an automated, daytime version of the sky lanterns that are popular in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia and China. In Khmer, sky lanterns or “គោម” (“Khome”) are often used in prayer and celebration at major festivals and even large non-traditional parties. People light them in solemn prayer for good harvests, love, or just to rejoice in their beauty.

Furthermore, Khmer weddings seek to broadcast the ceremony throughout the village or city from dawn to dusk, with as many speakers as possible set at full-blast. This new custom pioneered by Khmer Cloud comes out of a deeply rooted understanding of celebrations as communal events, remixing sky lanterns with new technologies to broadcast your celebration ever further. With over 13 million views and 180,000 shares on their most popular video, Khmer Cloud Making Service’s viral stock is rising fast.

An example of one of Khmer Cloud Making Service foam stencils, this one in the shape of Angkor Wat

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Ben Valentine

Ben Valentine is an independent writer living in Cambodia. Ben has written and spoken on art and culture for SXSW, Salon, SFAQ, the Los Angeles Review of Books, YBCA, ACLU, de Young Museum, and the Museum...