Danh Võ

21 May 2012

Photo: MARKUS TRETTER
all images courtesy of DANH VÕ and Kunsthaus Bregenz

The other day I went to DANH VÕ solo exhibition in Bregenz, and for his first major institutional solo event in Austria, the Danish-Vietnamese artist once again refracts the biographical history of the  family’s emigration from Vietnam and an expression of political ideals.

When he was four, his family fled the chaos of the post-war years in a boat. They were hoping to reach the USA, but instead they were picked up in the Pacific by a Danish cargo vessel. In Denmark the family became Danish citizens and have lived here ever since. Nevertheless throughout his life,’s father has nurtured a dream about the USA, American values, and US consumer goods.

Such objects were to become his material, readymades emblematic of Western middle- class aspirations and standards. His installation in the staircase of the Kunsthaus is particularly relevant:text and pictorial motifs have been applied in genuine gold leaf to opened-out recycling paper bags from the souvenir shop on Ellis Island-former seat of the US Immigration Authority – which together with Liberty Island, location of the Statue of Liberty, today serves as a memorial site for the approximatively 12 million people who migrated to the USA. Just as fairytales and legends of saints once tamed people with the prospect of heaven at the end of a humble, frugal life, so today consumer goods and status symbols often distract attention from the real social and political problems according to the artist.

Running on the three floors of the Kunsthaus, the exhibition includes photographic imagery by JOSEPH CARRIER, craft objects, flyers of past exhibitions and souvenirs which often focuses on the points where personal history, dreams, and desires are embedded in world history in general. A small regret, his last work WE THE PEOPLE (2011), a duplicate (original technique of hammered copper; original size and weight) of the Statue of Liberty, is not present in the exhibition.

➝ Vô Danh is currently on view at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria through June 24, 2012. Additionally a two-volume publication accompanies the exhibition as part of the catalog raisonné series published by the Kunsthaus Bregenz.

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