Four Films by Tuan Andrew Nguyen

When 24 Oct 2018
7:00PM - 8:30PM
Where Centre A
268 Keefer Street, second floor
Vancouver V6A 1X6

The Two Tuans, 1998

The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music, 2014, co-authored as a member of The Propeller Group

Kẻ Tội Đồ, 2017, co-authored with Wowy

My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desires, 2017

Centre A is excited to present a program of four films by Ho Chi Minh City-based artist and filmmaker Tuan Andrew Nguyen, including the Canadian premieres of The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music (co-authored as a member of The Propeller Group) and My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desires.

As both a solo artist and a member of The Propeller Group, with Phunam and Matt Lucero, Nguyen’s work over the last two decades has explored migration, diaspora, and intersectional coalition-building between post-colonial peoples. For example, Nguyen’s 2008 solo work Letters From Saigon to Saigontakes the form of a long letter penned by Wowy, a young rapper based in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Sài Gòn), to the American rapper Saigon. Nguyen describes the work as “part fan-letter, part foreign diplomacy, touching upon the overlapping moments of pop culture, politics, and history.”

Another key concern of Nguyen’s work is Vietnam’s rapid economic growth and rise to “new Asian Tiger” status, meditating on colonial histories and indigenous belief systems hidden within twenty-first century Vietnamese modernization. The Propeller Group’s The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music (2014), originally commissioned for New Orleans’s Prospect Biennial, suggests affinities between elaborate, multi-day Vietnamese funerary practices, which had been partially outlawed by previous Communist regimes and resuscitated after the state’s 1986 economic reforms, and the similarly carnivalesque character of New Orleans’s so-called “jazz funerals.” Nguyen’s two-channel solo film My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desires (2017) reflects on the irony that contemporary Vietnam’s reverence for animals has caused their overconsumption, which in turn has resulted in the extinction and near-extinction of numerous species. Posed as a Socratic dialogue between the spirits of the last Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros and Hoàn Kiếm turtle, the film brings together conspicuous consumption of rare animal meat, the recently-wrought belief that rhino horn can cure cancer (which appeals to the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine but is nowhere to be found in its annals), and the symbolic importance of the film’s protagonist animals as totems for Vietnamese independence.

Also included are the short video work The Two Tuans (1998), created when Nguyen was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Irvine; and the music video for Wowy’s song “Kẻ Tội Đồ” (2017), which Nguyen directed and collaborated on.

Nguyen is a partner in TPG Films, a production firm that has served as The Propeller Group’s commercial shadow. In addition to working with artists such as Dinh Q. Le and the collective Superflex, and on various ad campaigns, TPG Films has also been a force in Vietnamese pop music, producing numerous videos for the country’s younger generation of musicians. TPG Films’s music video aesthetic has bled into Nguyen’s and The Propeller Group’s artistic work, and is especially visible in The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music.

Photo courtesy of the organizer.

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