Due to political sensitivities at the time concerning the South China Sea, San Art was only able to show one proposed work in this exhibition
Begun in 2006, ‘Events Ashore’ has taken the artist across the globe, predominantly with US naval units, photographically documenting the activities of the contemporary US soldier. Initially drawn to the rehearsal strategies of war between the US and bilateral partners in the Gulf, Le was subsequently also compelled by the humanitarian and ‘exchange’ missions that the US carries out within South East Asia, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
Like a stage of a performance, An My Le’s photographs capture these ‘training grounds’, carefully framing the action feigning defense and the methodologies of prevention and cure. Depicting soldiers clearing trip wires in Indonesia; soldiers assisting relief efforts in earthquake struck Haiti; or a Lieutenant Commander being prepared for his portrait photograph in a warship ‘studio’, what is also particularly revealing in An My Le’s work is the complex process of collaboration drawing on specific cultural practice. Jungle survival in Indonesia with the art of skinning snakes or the presence of Buddhist monks on board US naval vessels is but few example of how the ethos of ‘exchange’ is carried out in return for US experience of contemporary warfare and its machinery.
Intriguingly, the contentious role of the artist as a part of the message making of history is also evoked in these images, where An My Le’s lens clicks over the backstage of preparation for rehearsal and re-enactment. The artist’s voice must master the composition of each frame to give reflective space to these acts that attempt to measure the physical and mental psychologies of the military providing a powerful doorway to the social and political responsibilities of contemporary military life.