Circulating within our image-burdened world are creative wanderers that ponder the vestiges of mediated fact and control — the crumbling layers of paint on government walls; the memory of a burning, martyred monk; the quasi-morphing of local habit with the experiential remnants of a ‘European Elsewhere’ — these itinerant image makers of Viet Nam contort such hidden shifts into concrete form in Time Ligaments.
In this exhibition nine perspectives grapple with the persisting memories of a country, of a particular space, where the past stubbornly weaves a lingering thread in the literal and mental landscape of the everyday. Their stories traverse the experience of migration and return; the metamorphosis of popular foreign trend with local custom; the struggle of resistance against historical ideas of social control; or the increasing urban dilettante whose material desires lay waste to their history and surroundings.
Time is schizophrenically warped in the photographically paused urban moments of Tu Duc Nguyen, while Phu Nam Thuc Ha’s camera lens captures the surfaces of crumbling government walls marveling at how time is the nascent agent of change. In Tuan Thai Nguyen’s careful paintings, where working life holds hostage to ideas of individual social worth, a crouching headless figure dressed in office garb faces a corner of an empty room. Such psychological influence of a neo-liberal world is also of great import in the gouache rendered drawings of Khanh Cong Bui and the conceptual sculptures of Tuan Andrew Nguyen, where ideas of deterioration and control are given broader symbolic context in examining how the tools of a game metaphorically stand in as political strategy in pacifying conflict and terror, not just in Viet Nam.
Such observations of social strategy and control is given meticulous imagination in the hand-drawn maps of Tiffany Chung where the hunger of Sai Gon’s urban sprawl swallows sites of near-forgotten historic import; similarly this idea of physical transformation is witnessed in the documentary film work of Thi Trinh Nguyen, whose encapsulation of the passing of human life is given particular reverence in the act of a funeral rite. These personal narratives, which render ideas of time and its duration as a powerful construct of change, is metaphysically furthered in the photographic installation of Christine Nguyen, whose water worlds fantastically morph the landscapes of Viet Nam’s urban cities with surreal aquatic topography, suggestive of a natural science at work in human progress. Such a notion of evolution is given compelling comparison in the fragile installations of Rich Streitmatter-Tran where contemporary scientific tools and traditional forms of knowledge are placed in provocative parallel, such as the ‘Large Hadron Collider’ (a quantum physics tool) which he imaginatively re-fashions in a likening to geomancy energy devices such as the Fengshui Bagua Mirror.
Showcasing nine contemporary Vietnamese voices through painting, video, photography, sculptural installation and works on paper, this exhibition melds mis-placed local memory with contemporary fact and ritual, these nine provocateurs drawing insightful comment on the lived dilemma of a country whose physical and psychological character is brilliantly, yet controversially layered in assumption and stereotype.