December 8, 2017 - The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre - Tuan Andrew Nguyen: Empty Forest
December 8, 2017

The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre

Tuan Andrew Nguyen, My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desires (still), 2017. Two-channel video installation, 18 minutes, color, 5.1 surround sound.

Tuan Andrew Nguyen
Empty Forest
December 9, 2017–February 7, 2018

The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre
15 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien Ward, District 2
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–7pm

T +84 283 7442 589
art@factoryartscentre.com

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Curated by Zoe Butt

Artist talk with Tuan Andrew Nguyen: December 13, 7–9pm, examining the relationship between spiritual belief, material consumption and socio-political attitudes in Vietnam 

The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre presents Empty Forest by Tuan Andrew Nguyen, his first solo exhibition in Vietnam in 10 years—showcasing film, sculpture, photography and performance—revealing a landscape where the industry of ailing spiritual beliefs is feeding the most wretched of human desires, to irreversible effect.

For this exhibition, Tuan Andrew Nguyen specifically addresses the socio-political context of Vietnam, transforming the ground floor main hall of The Factory into a menagerie of animalistic forms, a kind of large-scale diorama where the voice of the endangered sits on the edge of extinction (or in particular case has already teetered into oblivion). In Empty Forest, Nguyen explores the impact of traditional medicine in Vietnam on the plight of such wondrous creatures as the pangolin, rhino, turtle and deer, fascinated by the role and shape of human spiritual belief in its once interdependently respectful, yet now destructive relationship with the natural world. Nguyen’s forest is a supernatural landscape of inanimate objects, perhaps likened as monuments to the undead, where these creatures are transmogrified into totems for the (soon to be) dismembered. The horn of the rhino; the antlers of the deer; the scales of the pangolin, the shell of the turtle—these are just a few of the deemed "magical" elements within traditional medicine practice in China and Vietnam. Despite the fact that usage of such animal parts are scientifically proven as merely placebos, illegal poachers continue to ply the dying populations of these endangered animals knowing that they can earn an impressive sum from "patients" endemically believing in the healing science of "faith."

Central to this exhibition is a two-channel video installation—My Ailing Beliefs Can Cure Your Wretched Desires—which dives into the psychological and historical realm of this supernaturalism. Nguyen takes us on a journey into the present-day "wilderness" of Vietnam, where the wild is a juncture between the original and its copy; between the living and the extinct; between the imagined and what remains; between the violently oppressed and those politically in control. In these moving images we see adoration for animal life that is at once awe and lust, where their environments, for those alive or represented (i.e. embalmed or enshrined) reveal long-practiced, complex human ritual.

Told through the point-of-view of the wandering spirit of the last Javan rhino that was poached in the jungles of Vietnam in 2010, this work takes us through Chinese colonialism and its assertion through the practice of medicine, to French colonialism and their obsession with trophy kills, to the impact of the Vietnam War on natural habitats - these animals telling their own side to the story of humanity’s ailing beliefs. 

Tuan Andrew Nguyen (b. 1976, Saigon) graduated from the Fine Arts program of the University of California, Irvine, in 1999 and received his Masters of Fine Arts from The California Institute of the Arts in 2004. His solo practice examines the body as site, exploring the metaphysical impact of social enigma and mass media on its representation and function. In his desire to re-align the power dynamics between public space and mass media, he founded The Propeller Group in 2006, an art collective who position themselves as advertising company and archeologists of historical conundrums. Accolades for projects of this collective include the Internationale Kurztfilmtage Wintherthur (Switzerland, 2015) and a Creative Capital award (USA, 2015). The Propeller Group has been featured in numerous international exhibitions including The Ungovernables (New Museum Triennial, 2012) Prospect 3 (New Orleans Triennial, 2014), and the Venice Biennale 2015. Tuan’s individual practice has been shown in numerous exhibitions and film festivals globally, with his art in prominent public collections such as The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (Australia), Carre d’Art (France), Museum of Modern Art (USA) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (USA). He lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City.

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