My Buddy and Me.

My buddy and me.

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I felt a heaviness of responsibility through much of this course. I felt that heaviness the most the night before I first met Kanitha Tith. I stayed up nearly all night to finish the user guide I was making. Kanitha is a vibrant, easy-going, and fiercely smart young artist. My anxiety and nerves, perhaps a staple of my New York Jewish upbringing, just did not match Kanitha’s spirit.

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Global Exchange is not a class. It is a course, a journey that a group of students and two teachers from many disciplines takes together to prepare and welcome the visiting Cambodian artists. The richness of this exchange was not anything that we the students could give to our artist partners. The larger exchange—and the reason the visiting residents came to New York—is with the city itself.  Kanitha, as have all of my classmates and her fellow artists from Cambodia, have given me a new lens to see the city I grew up in, with new recommendations for places to eat and drink, gardens and art centers.

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What I learned from Kanitha is not because she is Cambodian or an artist. Her artwork and her conceptual process are inspiring and eye-opening. Physically demonstrated in Kanitha’s installation in New York, she shares with the world a certain bearable lightness of being. Our connection began with an email introduction from Brian, which led to a pretty lengthy Skype conversation. Kanitha and I found we have common ground as interior design students, both born in the 1980s, with a love for hardware stores. Just as Kanitha so eloquently said that she cannot represent all of Cambodia or Phnom Penh, I cannot represent all of the United States or New York City. At the crux of this exchange, we are just two people, who live on opposite ends of the globe.

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And so here ends the class. But, an exchange cannot terminate in the same way. Up next for my new buddy and me? Breakfast on Thursday. And so here it continues . . .

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