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Matrix 203: Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba Memorial Project, Vietnam
April 6 though June 29, 2003
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is proud to present the first solo museum exhibition by Vietnam-based artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. MATRIX 203: Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba Memorial Project Vietnam features two films: Memorial Project, Nha Trang, Vietnam, "Towards the Complex — For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards (2001) and a new piece produced by BAM/PFA, Happy New Year — Memorial Project Vietnam II (2003). The exhibition will open at BAM/PFA April 6 and run through June 29, 2003.
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba creates lyrical, graceful, and spellbinding films that explore Vietnamese history and identity. Raised in Japan and educated in the United States, the artist now lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen-Hatsushiba's MATRIX exhibition will include two films (projected in the gallery as DVDs). Both works are filmed underwater, suggesting a symbolic link with Vietnamese sensibility. Vietnam, with its long coastline and one of the world's largest, most fertile river basins — the Mekong delta — is defined by its relationship to water. Vietnamese folklore and mythology also abound in references to water.
Memorial Project, Nha Trang, Vietnam, "Towards the Complex — For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards" (2001) records a staged underwater race by cyclo (bicycle taxi) drivers, a significant community within Vietnamese culture. In response to legislation outlawing their production, the artist created this work as a gesture of solidarity with the drivers who struggle to hold onto their livelihood.
A new piece, Happy New Year — Memorial Project Vietnam II, explores a key event in modern Vietnamese history: the Tet Offensive of 1968, a series of surprise attacks by North Vietnamese troops during the celebration of the Lunar New Year, when both sides were thought to have laid down their arms to celebrate the country's most important holiday. The Tet Offensive is considered a turning point in the Vietnam War.
Two powerful images dominate this film: a traditional New Year's dragon puppet, supported from beneath by seven divers; and a fantastical Fate Machine — a giant, skeletal orb filled with smaller balls, which are released at random and shot toward the surface of the water by the Fate Master. The balls in the orb, which explode in clouds of color when they reach the surface of the water, represent the experience of the Vietnamese "boat people" who cast their lot on the water, attempting to flee the country following the war in search of a better future.
In describing his new project, Nguyen-Hatsushiba notes that many Vietnamese people who left the country after the war officially ended in 1975 are beginning to return. The impact on personal identity of such round-trip migration — of crossing and recrossing boundaries — is one of the topics he explores in his work.
Nguyen-Hatsushiba earned an M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1994 following his B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1992. His work has been included in the 2001 Yokohama Triennale and the 2002 Sydney and São Paolo Biennials. His work will also be featured at the upcoming 2003 Venice Biennale, and at the 2003 Istanbul Biennale.
This will be the U.S. premiere of Memorial Project, recently acquired by BAM/PFA, and the world premiere of Happy New Year. Memorial Project Vietnam, the artist's first one-person museum exhibition, will travel to the New Museum in New York and the Austin Museum of Art.
Sunday, April 6, 3 p.m.
Underwater Cyclos and Overseas Vietnamese Imagination
Professor Peter Zinoman
Sunday, May 4, 3 p.m.
The history and mystique of the cyclo, a humble form of transportation that is also an important carrier of Vietnamese identity, is the focus of this presentation that responds to Memorial Project Vietnam and its evocative imagery. Peter Zinoman, Associate Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, will draw primarily on literature to explore the cyclo's resonance in the collective imagination of both overseas Vietnamese and foreign observers of Vietnam. He will also touch on the significance of two other notable themes in Nguyen-Hatsushiba's work — water, and the meanings invested in Tet (Vietnamese New Year). This program is copresented by UC Berkeley's Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator
Thursday, June 5, 12:15 p.m.
What can art tell us about the world in which we live? Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson explores art's ability to provide insights into contemporary global issues.