List Projects 26: Alison Nguyen

February 23, 2023 – June 26, 2023
MIT List Visual Arts Center

20 Ames Street, Bldg. E15
Atrium level
Cambridge, MA 02139

Exhibition view: List Projects 26: Alison Nguyen, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2023. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Exhibition view: List Projects 26: Alison Nguyen, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2023. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Alison Nguyen’s works reflect on how images are produced, circulated, and consumed in mainstream US culture and media, whether in film, advertising, or in virtual spaces online.

The psychological effects of digital media on its consumers and the relationship between political conditions and technological developments are primary concerns of Nguyen’s projects, which span video, installation, performance, and text. In past works, Nguyen has borrowed user-generated 3D modeled objects that often appear in video games, employed found footage to trace the evolution of consumer-produced media (from early home videos to YouTube vlogging), and exposed visual parallels between dessert commercials and the aesthetic embellishment of tragedy in news reporting (sometimes dubbed “disaster porn”). Nguyen has also enlisted motion-capture technology, which maps the artist’s movements onto an animation in real-time, to outsource live-broadcast virtual lecture performances to her gig-working avatar, Andra8.

For her first institutional solo exhibition, Nguyen will premiere a new three-channel moving image installation, history as hypnosis (2023). Drawing on cinematic tropes of science fiction, westerns, and road films, history as hypnosis surfaces themes of alienation and assimilation, centering on marginal characters and narratives that, as the artist observes, are often “omitted from history and the screen.” The work follows three women who are programmed by Artificial Intelligence and whose memories from their previous existence have been erased. In search of a man named “X,” the trio venture from the California desert to gas stations, gritty strip malls, starchitect-designed buildings, and underground enclaves. Interweaving subtle references to past geopolitical violence associated with America’s war in Vietnam, the work offers a complex take on how memory, consciousness, and historical narratives merge into a shared cultural imaginary that is produced, and reinforced, through cinematic images.

Alison Nguyen (b. 1986), lives and works in New York. Her films have screened at e-flux, Ann Arbor Film Festival, International Film Festival Oberhausen, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Channels Festival International Biennial of Video Art, Open City Documentary Festival, the Jewish Museum, and Microscope Gallery, among others. Her work has been exhibited at institutions and galleries including Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; the Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand; International Studio & Curatorial Program, New York; AC Gallery, Beijing; Half Gallery, Signs and Symbols, La Kaje, Hartnett Gallery, all New York; and The University of Oklahoma; among others. Nguyen has received residencies and fellowships from the International Studio & Curatorial Program, The Institute of Electronic Arts, BRIC, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center, Signal Culture, and Vermont Studio Center. She has been awarded grants from the NYFA Artist Fellowship in Film/Video 2021, NYSCA, the Foundation for Contemporary Art, and The New York Community Trust. In 2018 Alison Nguyen was featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” She received her BA from Brown University and is a Visual Arts MFA candidate at Columbia University.

List Projects 26: Alison Nguyen is organized by Selby Nimrod, Assistant Curator.