‘Every twig leaves a story in break- ing
Each man only a handful of dirt’
Taken from the short poem BT Shaw wrote in response to visual artist Nguyen Trinh Thi’s work ‘Song to the front’, these lines could be read as a prelude to ‘Echoing Nostalgia. Collecting Countermemory’.
‘Nostalgia’ is an official scientific term of psychological studies, referring to the prevailing psychological condition of humanity and its contemplation of their roots or reflections upon their past. Diagnosis of nostalgia in the field of social psychology has undergone substantial developments since the 19th Century from being perceived as neurological disorder and depression to being employed as a therapeutic treatment . To social scientists, including anthropologists, historians and artists, when it comes to research and creative activity, nostalgia remains a term that is both debatable and inspirational. Nostalgia occurs as a result of dissatisfaction with the present, described as highly personal – dramatic – romantic – full of disguise. Such character is a subconscious approach to history that clouds the truth. When a community consists of individuals each suffering this nostalgia there is a collective attitude that seeks to escape what is in front of them, subsequently denying the possibilities of a future. Nostalgia becomes one of the symptoms of ‘crowd psychology’, stereotypically considered innocuous, like a sentimental novel. However, as a side-effect, nostalgia is being commercialized where cultural practice of the past is idolized, evident in such things as faux antiques; while on the other hand it is a lifestyle choice, such as the transformation of colonial villas for chic cafes selling photographs of a bygone era.
‘Echoing Nostalgia. Collecting Countermemory’ is a unique exhibition that immerses the audience in a space where the line between the past and the present is blurred. Artists Pham Ngoc Lan, John Monteith and Nguyen Trinh Thi each participate with a video artwork, the visual experiences of which are interwoven with BT Shaw’s counter-responses in poetry and translation work by Ho Lieu. In this exhibition, the chronological progression from past to present is no longer completely linear. The common perspective on past values, classic beauty and historical forms of ‘unconditional’ belief will be challenged by the ‘countermemories’ of each individual: the visual artist, the poet and the spectator. In terms of format, all three artists explore the synergy between picture and sound in video works. In terms of idea, they all reflect the similarities and the differences in historical values at various points in time.