In three interrelated presentations (performance, screening, art talk), artist-scholars Việt Lê, kate-hers RHEE, and Hồng-Ân Trương examined archives, intimacies, and empires through cross-disciplinary practices which included experimental film, poetry, performance, and installation.
To start the event, RHEE and Lê remixed the text from the artbook White Gaze (Michelle Dizon and Lê) and as a performance, an audience call and response, tracing our collective desires and complicities.
Hồng-Ân Trương (US, Việt Nam) screened and presented selections from several projects that reflect a critical history of the camera and media in relationship to empire. Her work in video, photography, sound, and performance attempts to render the double – first, by simply making visible and legible certain histories, and secondly, by simultaneously trying to challenge a notion of whatever “pure” notion of the self that those histories can’t help but attempt to hold together. She discussed recent projects including Treatment for A Year of the Rabbit, which uses a partially biographical account of her mother’s life in Việt Nam before fleeing as a refugee at the end of the American War in 1975 as the basis for a fictional film treatment using photographs, text, and video. She also shared some of her research and process for We Are Beside Ourselves, her current project supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, which mines archives of what might seem to be the familiar history of the 1960s and 1970s radical liberation movements in relationship to Asian American political resistance. Engaging histories that span cultural and national borders, and making connections between both individual and collective narratives, Trương’s work interrogates conventions of looking, hearing, and speaking that are structured by tools inextricable from a history of violence.
Also criss-crossing continents, time, and place, kate-hers RHEE (Berlin, Seoul) discussed the evolution of her politically engaged work as an artist and her dogged pursuit of cultivating creativity and playful improvisation in her artistic practice. She shared recent work and influences to frame the context of her current interdisciplinary project, Wunderkammer and Things, supported by the AHL Foundation. This work takes the form of a modern day cabinet of curiosities, which she describes as part sculptural installation, part mini museum and a reflection on her migratory history. The transcultural nature of Wunderkammer and Things draws on the artist’s Korean and German heritage and American cultural upbringing, spanning research in South Korea, Germany, and the United States, notably in New York where she’s been invited to examine object display and collection practices at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through the lens of transnational feminism, RHEE’s work de-centers the legacy of the European patriarchal collection (and gaze), while focusing on alternative narratives.
Việt Lê (San Francisco, Sài Gòn) presented selections from his art, academic, and curatorial projects. Filmed in Hà Nội, Los Angeles, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok, Lê screened excerpts from three overlapping film projects that trace a transnational, time-traveling, trilingual trans-love triangle. lovebang! is an art music video for an original trilingual “hip pop” song in Vietnamese, Khmer, and English. “Hip pop” is a fictitious cross between pop and hip hop. eclipse is a video for spirited lovers, spirits, and the spiritual, filmed in Hà Nội in a ghostly guesthouse and Nhà sàn Đức—a traditional Vietnamese “house on stilts” and pioneering experimental artist-run space. The soundtrack is by controversial, legendary music pioneers Đại Lâm Linh. The heART/break! video project reimagines refugees—from 1970s Southeast Asia and today’s “European refugee crisis”—seeking shelter in a boy bar disco inferno. Upon the fortieth anniversary in 2015 of the military engagements in Southeast Asia, haunted lovers lost and found embody choreographies, cartographies of loss and desire.
[Please note that this video has been edited at the artists’ request]
Việt Lê is an artist, writer, and curator. Lê is an Associate Professor in Visual Studies at California College of the Arts. He has been published in American Quarterly; Amerasia Journal; Art Journal; and the anthologies Writing from the Perfume River; Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art; among others. Solo exhibitions include Sonic Spiritualities (Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines 2020), lovebang! (Kellogg University Art Gallery, Los Angeles 2016), vestige (H Gallery Bangkok 2015), tan nÁRT cõi lòng | heARTbreak! (Nhà Sàn Collective Hà Nội). Lê has presented his work at The Banff Centre; the Smithsonian, DoBaeBacSa Gallery, Seoul, Bangkok Art & Cultural Center (BACC), Shanghai Biennale; Rio Gay Film Festival, among other venues. vietle.net
Interdisciplinary visual artist kate-hers RHEE was born in Seoul and raised in a deeply racially segregated, working class suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Her experiences negotiating her position in-between, specifically black and white identities, are at the core of her artistic practice. She explores transnational identity and the construction of self, while discussing gender, migration, and global inequality. Her work engages with the assessment of, and post-colonial discourses surrounding, the ethnographic collection and the archeologic archive. After receiving her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on merit scholarship and her MFA from the University of California-Irvine, where she was a graduate studies diversity and Jacob K. Javits fellow, she established her studio in Berlin, Germany in 2009, where she learned to speak fluent broken German. She works transculturally in South Korea, Germany, and the United States.
She has received numerous awards and prizes, among them Fulbright and DAAD scholarships, the first prize of the visual art competition at the AHL Foundation, as well as the biannual project grant, an Incheon Art Platform residency fellowship, a MacDowell residency fellowship, the Berlin Senate working artist fellowship and support from the Heinrich Böll Stiftung. In 2018 she was a Goldrausch fellow. RHEE’s work and projects have been shown nationally and internationally in diverse galleries and institutions in Berlin and beyond; in Galerie Wedding, Galerie Irrgang, Galerie damdam in the Korean Cultural Center, in Reinbeckhallen, in the Asian Art Museum and in the Berlinische Galerie; in Art Space One and in Warehouse Gallery Incheon Art Platform in Korea and in the British Museum in London. Her solo exhibition, Wunderkammer and Things will be on view at the Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University in 2021.
Hồng-Ân Trương is an artist who uses photography, video, and sound to explore immigrant, refugee, and decolonial narratives and subjectivities. Her work has been shown in exhibitions at the International Center for Photography (NY), Art in General (NY), Fundación PROA (Buenos Aires), the Nasher Museum of Art (Durham, NC), The Kitchen (NY), Nhà Sàn (Hanoi), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland), Leslie Tonkonow Gallery (NY), the Rubber Factory (NY), the Phillips Collection (Washington D.C.) and the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN), among many others. She was included in the New Orleans triennial Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp in 2017-2018. Her collaborative work with Hương Ngô was exhibited in Being: New Photography 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her work has been reviewed in Artforum, The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, The Wall Street Journal, and Hyperallergic, among others. She has been awarded an Art Matters Foundation Grant, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts emergency grant, and is a 2019-2020 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in Fine Art. She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine and was a fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program. Hồng- n is based in Durham, North Carolina where she is an activist and a teacher. She is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. kate hers RHEE’s participation is funded by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.