|  Charlie Don’t Surf
Exhibition: April 9 – May 21, 2005
Dinh Q. LE
NGUYEN Tan Hoang
TRAN T. Kim-Trang

Opening: Saturday, April 9, 8pm (artists in attendance)
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm

Curated by Viet LE

80 page full colour catalogue

“Charlie Don’t Surf: Art, the Politics of Identity, and the Vietnam War”
Sunday, April 10, 2 – 5 pm, Vancouver Art Gallery, room 403 ADMISSION FREE.

Dinh Q. L↑ (artist; Ho Chi Minh/Los Angeles)
Viet Le (artist/curator; PhD candidate, USC, Los Angeles)
Nguyen Tan Hoang (filmmaker/artist; PhD candidate, UC, Berkeley)
Nhan Duc Nguyen (artist; Vancouver)
Ann Phong (artist; Los Angeles)
Moira Roth (art historian and critic; Mills College, Oakland, CA)
MODERATOR: Alice Ming Wai Jim (curator; Centre A)

Thirty years after The Fall of Saigon in Vietnam, and a decade after the flowering and subsequent proclaimed failure of multiculturalism and identity politics in the United States, this exhibition highlights contemporary Vietnamese American visual artists whose work and subjectivity is affected by these socio-political intersections. Through experimental video, abstract painting, and photography, these multi-generational artists’ seemingly disparate practices explore memory, failure, sexuality, trauma, and the ambivalent politics of cultural difference.

Referring to Antonio Gramsci’s notion of the war of position (as opposed to the war of maneuver), which situates cultural production as an active site of resistance and a space to question hegemonic structures, the exhibition raises a number of critical questions. How has the legacy of the Vietnam War affected these multiply diasporic artists’ work (or has it)? How do these artists embrace, challenge and engage issues of representation, authenticity, and validation? Do they address—or problematize—the burden of representation? In short, how do these artists subvert and/or exploit standard expectations and assumptions of Vietnamese American/ Asian American subjectivity?

The exhibition is accompanied by a colour catalogue (32 illns;106pp), edited by Viet Le and Alice Ming Wai Jim, with essays by Linda Thinh Võ, Mariam Beevi Lam, Moira Roth, and others. * SPECIAL PRICE ON OPENING NIGHT.

Centre A gratefully acknowledges the generous support of its patrons, sponsors, members, partners, private foundations, and government funding agencies, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs. Charlie Don’t Surf: 4 Vietnamese American Artists is also supported, in part, by SEATRiP (“Southeast Asia: Text, Ritual, Performance” Research Program), University of California at Riverside; the Long March Foundation; the VAWA Fest (Vietnamese American Women Artists Festival); the Vancouver Art Gallery; the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA); and individual patrons Dawn Akemi Nakaya, Hong Hoa Thi Ho, and Catherine Hong Le. Additional support for related education programs for the exhibition has been provided by a Diversities Initiatives grant from the City of Vancouver.

Presented in affiliation with Asian Heritage Month

Artist and Curator Biographies

Dinh Q. LE uses photo weavings to examine trauma and representation in Cambodia, Vietnam and the United States. The large, lush photo montages, using a traditional grass mat weaving technique, combine disparate images culled from popular culture (particularly American film and newspaper representations of the Vietnam War) into tapestries that conceal and reveal half-truths, media constructions, providing a visual analogy of the processes of memory and historical trauma: fragments are obscured, recovered, it is a process of ongoing articulation and negotiation—to remember is to forget, the viewer struggles to form a mental image, must take time with what is before her to make sense of the disconcerting, haunting splinters—a face, a body, machines of war. In his latest work, the images have multiplied, a dizzying array of references, an onslaught of images of violence, flesh, and terror re-imagined as spectacle by the Hollywood machine. Lê’s work has been exhibited in numerous international solo and group exhibitions, most recently at the Venice Biennale.

Viet LE is an interdisciplinary artist, creative and critical writer, and curator. He has received creative fellowships from the Banff Centre (Canada), the Fine Arts Work Center (MA), and PEN Center USA (CA). His artwork has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, most recently at the Laguna Art Museum (CA) and the Cape Museum of Fine Arts (MA). His work has been published in Asia Pacific American Journal, Amerasia Journal, So Luminous the Wildflowers: An Anthology of California Poets (Vols. I & II: Tebot Bach 2003, 2005), Corpus, among others. His latest curatorial project was a performance series premiering in Los Angeles and Orange Counties entitled Miss Saigon with the Wind, featuring work by Vietnamese American female performance artists (www.missaigonwiththewind.com). Le obtained his M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine, where he has also taught; and is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at the University of Southern California.

NGUYEN Tan Hoang is both an academic and an experimental film-maker whose creative work has been featured in festivals in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, and Europe. Nguyen’s artistic agenda is a political one: to create a popular culture for queer Asian Americans. Nguyen often uses appropriated film footage, combining pastiche, kitsch film and music references to speak of his queer positionality. Nguyen’s output of short videos includes Seven Steps to Sticky Heaven, a musing on the politicization process of becoming “sticky rice”—a gay Asian male who dates other GAM’s. Maybe Never (but I’m counting the days) is an exploration of loss, longing and queer colored subjectivity in the shadow of AIDS. Nguyen’s other work has included homages to supermodels (Forever Linda!); Dalena, a blue-eyed, blonde haired singing sensation within the Vietnamese American community (Cover Girl: A Gift from God); Hong Kong popstars (Forever Jimmy!); “bottoms” (Forever Bottom) and pirates (Pirated!). Through a nonlinear “pirated television” editing technique used in Pirated! (2003), Hoang speaks of the perilous journey of boat refugees, pirates, and his own homoerotic desire for pirates (manifest in swashbuckling films), as well as insights on “returning to the homeland” and its inherent contradictions.

Born in Saigon, Ann PHONG fled Vietnam in 1981 and spent a year living in refugee camps in Malaysia and the Philippines before coming to southern California. In 1995 she received her M.F.A. from California State University, Fullerton. Her work has been exhibited in more than 40 solo and group shows throughout California and in Japan. She currently teaches art at Cal State Fullerton, and Cal Poly Pomona. Phong’s abstracted paintings of boats reference the female body as a vessel, and also the plight of the Vietnamese refugee boat people. The surfaces are tactile, layers and layers of paint and text embedded; when lit properly, they glow from within. The images are abstracted—waves of translucent paint, an outline of an empty boat, a disembodied hand. Formal and visceral, she plays with extremes—tenebroso, if you will—areas contrast each other, light and dark. Her work often evokes painful individual and collective memories, expressing impotence, loss, wonder, rage. This is manifest in her paintings, the colors, the layers, the violent and gentle brush strokes.

TRAN T. Kim Trang was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. She received her M.F.A. in 1993 from the California Institute of the Arts and her B.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1989. In 1991, Tran T. Kim Trang commenced working on the Blindness Series, an eight-part experimental video project examining blindness and its metaphors. Stylistically and conceptually different, each video functions as a theoretical and visceral musing on different aspects of sightlessness. Alethia (1992) is the introduction to the series, weaving various categories together; operlucum (1993) deconstructs Western ideals of beauty and shows the artist visiting Beverly Hills cosmetic operations offices for consultations on blepharoplasty, or eyelid creasing surgery; kore (1994) muses on blindfolds, gender and sexuality, fear, and institutional blindspots (women, people of color, AIDS); ocularis: Eye Surrogates (1997) deals with surveillance; ekleipsis (1998) delves into the hysterical blindness of a group of Cambodian women residing in Long Beach; alexia (2000) is a musing on word blindness and metaphors. The penultimate installment of the series, amaurosis: a portrait of Nguyen Duc Dat (2003) is an experimental documentary about a blind guitarist residing in Little Saigon, CA.

Vancouver display will commemorate exodus of Vietnamese

Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2007

One day in 1986, Khanh Vo, a middle-aged nurse and mother, clambered into a boat and fled her native Vietnam.

Her middle-class apartment had been expropriated by the Communist government and she barely earned enough to feed her family, despite her medical skills.

So she joined the wave of refugees that came to be known as the Vietnamese boat people.

Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong cling to a barbed wire fence while waiting in line for food outside a temporary holding area in 1989.View Larger Image View Larger Image

Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong cling to a barbed wire fence while waiting in line for food outside a temporary holding area in 1989.

Reuters, Files

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Her four-day journey to Malaysia was safe and happily uneventful — unlike the horrific experiences of many other Vietnamese refugees who drowned, were killed or raped by pirates, suffered long periods of hunger or languished in squalid refugee camps.

Vo eventually settled in Vancouver, where years later she was joined by the daughter she left behind in Vietnam.

This same daughter, Que-Tran Hoang, now 27, is organizing a display in Vancouver this weekend that commemorates the fall of Saigon to the Communists in April 1975 and the migration of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people to other countries.

“We try to educate younger Vietnamese-Canadians about the Vietnam War,” said Hoang.

“We try to give them their parents’ point of view which is that South Vietnamese forces were fighting the North Vietnamese Communists to protect South Vietnam.”

Many older Vietnamese-Canadians, she added, are concerned that their children and grandchildren have been influenced by other perspectives on the Vietnam War, including the belief of many North Americans that South Vietnamese politicians and soldiers were puppets of the American military that pursued a tragic and unpopular war.

The key event in this weekend’s celebration is the display of the Vietnamese Freedom Boat in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Its purpose is to remind a younger generation of Vietnamese-Canadians of the ordeals endured by many of the so-called boat people, said Hoang.

The Freedom Boat was one of two motorized light fishing boats that left Vietnam on May 12, 1981.

The boats battled high waves for about a week before arriving on a beach in Bataan, Philippines.

Filipino police were shocked by the condition of the refugees, who had been so hungry they had actually eaten most of their clothes.

All of the 50 refugees miraculously survived.

Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos was so moved by their story that he had the smaller boat displayed at a site dedicated to the memory of the boat people called Freedom Plaza in Bataan.

The 10-metre-long boat became known as Freedom Boat. The vessel was recently given by the Filipino government to a Vietnamese cultural group in California, and is now on a tour of the U.S. and Canada.

Between 1975 and 1989, 600,000 Vietnamese “boat people” resettled abroad.

Many of them spent time in refugee camps set up by the United Nations to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

About 145,000 came to Canada, the majority between 1975 and 1984.

Hoang, who is now constituency assistant to Vancouver-Kingsway NDP MLA Adrian Dix, said there are about 27,000 Vietnamese in B.C. — about half of them refugees.

The boat people phenomenon came to a halt in 1989 when the United Nations placed greater restrictions on Vietnamese refugee claims.


DOUG WARD, Vancouver Sun

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The migration of Vietnamese refugees to Canada in the ‘70s following the end of the Vietnam War will be marked this weekend with the display in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery of a boat used by some refugees.
The so-called Freedom Boat carried 15 refugees in 1981 from Vietnam to the Philippines.
In the years following the fall of the South Vietnamese regime in Saigon to the Communist forces on April 30, 1975, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled the country.
The Freedom Boat was given by the Filipino government to a non-profit Vietnamese cultural group in California. The vessel is now on a tour of the U.S. and Canada.

Nearly 45% of nail salons in the U.S. are either Vietnamese- owned or employ Vietnamese technicians, according to bimonthly magazine VietSALON.

Publisher Cyndy Drummey attributes the growth of the industry for Vietnamese Americans to two main factors: accessibility and community.

“Fifteen years ago, the nail business was still new to Vietnamese Americans. But it made sense. The educational requirements were reasonable. You didn’t have to speak English. There wasn’t a lot of start-up money required, and so you could have a quick start and be able to make a small living,” explained Drummey.