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When contemporary art is memory By Myriam Dao for Association d’Amitie Franco - Vietnamienne| Translated by Tran Vinh An Link to the original French Publication AAFV | August 29, 2015 It is not enough to be an artist of today to be "contemporary artist". If modern art undermines academicism, contemporary art goes further still, deconstructing discourse and references, not only those of the history of art, but also those of society. In this, it is certainly "post-colonial" in the direction of Postmodernism. Some appeared in the year 1945 (G.A.Tiberghien), but more than the works of contemporary art, is the manner in which they are exposed, which defines a new paradigm in rupture with Western-centric vision, taken often as universalist (Thomas McEvilley). In summary, it is the "curatorial" attitude, the bringing together of works with a stated objective (Khai Hori at the Palais de Tokyo), with 'Archipelago Secret', or yet Okwui Enwezor with "All the World's future", currently on display at the Venice Biennale), which gives this "label". It seems today that the commissioners’ exposure or "curators" and contemporary artists draw their arguments both in the politics, history, philosophy and anthropology. When official or family memory is failing, there is a duty to invent. Contemporary artists of the Viet Nam and the diaspora we present here seize this issue. All attempt to present the unspoken and/or deconstruct representations of conflict – illustrated in the press “ad nauseam” - substituting metaphorical or poetic visions, assuming their subjectivity. Whether or the artist and their works derive from the North or the South is of no matter: art is a plural language. Thus, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, from old Europe to Los Angeles, artists have inherited from fragments of history that is necessary to make visible and to transmit these messages.

Lê Brothers, Hue, Viet Nam, born in 1975 The Lê brothers were born April 3, 1975. The simply mention of this date in their biography introduces the idea that history through their lives is the fortiori for their art. War and loss, are at work in their videos, installations, and performances, which aim both to question and to restore a form of peace. In The Game (installation, performance and video), the duo, who plays each other’s twin, has two uniforms that might be those of two camps, except that here, they are identical. The artist duo use with their body, their creativity, and their desire for peace and union. The game, that of war, turns here to the artistic game: the two brothers have replaced weapons with flowers. With The Bridge II, the artists focus our attention on the sense of loss caused by the partition of a country, as occurred in Viet Nam, and also Korea and Germany. The Lê Brothers exhibited in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo in 2015, in the context of Archipelago Secret, Singapore, and in France, as was selected by curator Khai Hori.

Nguyen Trinh Thi, Hanoi, Viet Nam, born in 1973 . In her films, Nguyen Trinh Thi does not hesitate to exhume anonymous archives, to deconstruct Vietnamese ideology past and present in poetic manner. Her training: journalism, photography and ethnographic cinema in the United States. Her work was selected for the Biennale of Contemporary Art in Lyon, as well as at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, where she will exhibit Ancient letters from Panduranga from October 20, 2015 to January 24, 2016. With Landscape, on display in 2010, she developed the idea that landscape is a mute witness of history.

Liza Nguyen, Germany, born in 1979 This photographer was born and studied in France and Germany, and her work explores the memory and the link between aesthetics and ethics. "I only touch lightly on history" says the artist, who presents a series of photographs of Earth, collected in Viet Nam from the landscapes of among the most murderous of conflict: Cu Chi, Dien Bien Phu, Doc Mieu, My Lai, Khe Sanh, Kon Tum.

Trinh Mai, California, USA, born in 1978 More information at After training in painting, Trinh’s work took a turning point when she discovered the archives containing her grandmother's photographs. She then decided to integrate the photographs in her work. Her work derives not only from her family archives, but also from the materials of the UCI Libraries Orange County & SEAA Center. In the Quiet installation, faces painted on white sails in the Indian ink, are based on the photographs of thousands of sheets reported disappearances during the war. Her aim is to give a face to signify that the missing are not just names, but flesh and blood, individuals with dreams and love. Boat Folks documents the escape by boat of her own family. What inspires the artist: "looking into the past, and finding its roots�.

Myriam Dao, Paris, born in 1963 “Importing it into memory, remembrance, or oblivion, is therefore not so much the truth as it is a set of symbols and their movement", writes Achille Mbembe. Apart from the glamorous vision that we have, what remains of French Indochina? This is the question posed by Myriam Dao with her maps, Made in France. To decolonize the imaginary linked to this territory, she produces maps, palimpsests of words on maps as tools to deconstruct its representations. Necessarily subjective, this geographical map, Made in France, is made from fabrics - including hemp produced under Vichy - have dramatic repercussions, and colonial and post-colonial, texts, some of which are borrowed from Frantz Fanon. She therefore draws the contours of a country that she knows through her research, according to four opus - Scents, Resources, Destruction, and Occupation - to leave a traces of sensitivity, quantifiability, intelligibility, and memory. The artist begins with an observation: the history of the former French colonies in Asia, those lacking of visibility. It is uncommon to make the link between Indo-China and World War II, and yet, as of other colonies and Overseas, Indochina was occupied first by Vichy, and then by the Japanese. The point of view that it has been adopted by this colonial history and territory in which her father was born, built in France, lends itself to the title of the series: Made in France.

We would like to acknowledge two creative platforms, one in Hanoi, Nhà Sàn, and another in Ho-Chi-Minh City, Sàn Art. Nhà Sàn Collective, Hanoi, Viet Nam Nguyen Phuong Linh, born in 1985 in Hanoi, is an artist who took over his father’ role as creator of Nha San Studio in 1998. Since its revival in 2013, this experimental venue, a contemporary art research laboratory, offers performances, talks, and workshops. Nhà San Collective catalyzes contemporary art here and now. San Art, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam Since 2007, San Art has been a platform for contemporary art. Its Director, Dinh Q. Lê is an international artist, whose works are in the collections span the world. Sàn Art is both a place of creative production, exhibition, conferences, and training. On the one hand, Dinh wants to promote the local arts scene, and on the other, it provides opportunities for residencies for international artists through partnerships. Interdisciplinarity is its watchword to rethink the link between art and society. It is also necessary to mention the selection of curator Okwui Enwezor for the prestigious Venice Biennale of contemporary art in 2015: Tiffany Chung with his abstract maps, and The Propeller Group artist collective, whose work questions the use of weapons and their destructive power.

Notes: Myriam Dao is an artist Visual and independent researcher. She teaches Visual Arts and History of the Arts, and is a regular contributor to journals of contemporary art online, including and

Profile for Trinh Mai Studios

When contemporary art is memory  

By Myriam Dao An article which highlights five international Vietnamese artists, including The Lê brothers (Hue), Nguyen Thi Trinh (Hanoi),...

When contemporary art is memory  

By Myriam Dao An article which highlights five international Vietnamese artists, including The Lê brothers (Hue), Nguyen Thi Trinh (Hanoi),...