Việt Lê is an artist, writer and curator using these creative narratives to tell stories around different forms of trauma: historical, state-imposed, identity-related, and more. Whether in the form of a poem or a curated installation, his work is deeply layered, tinged with loss as well as the beauty of living.
What drives you to wake up in the morning & what keeps you up at night?
I believe we are in a crisis. I don’t believe in the anxious language of refugee “crisis,” although we are globally experiencing mass migrations in the shadow of capital and wars. In this age of Brexit, xenophobia, gun violence, self-interest and selfies, we are in the depths of a sociopolitical, environmental and spiritual crisis. What wakes me up and keeps me up is the crisis of meaning: how do we facilitate and create meaningful, productive exchanges with our limited world views? And how do we get ourselves and others to expand the limits of our individual and collective vision?
Trained as an ethnographer, much of my art and research involves collaboration. I worked with many fantastic artists in Hà Nội, including Jamie Maxtone-Graham, my director of photography, as well as conceptual artists Nguyễn Phương Linh, Tuân Mami, Nguyễn Quốc Thành. The dancer is Duy Thanh and you may recognize Phong (the trans M to F protagonist) from the film Finding Phong.
eclipse is about longing and loss—losing a loved one or a country (as I did, as a refugee) and desperately wanting it back, with no recourse. It is indicative of our current moment, wanting to “make America great again”: we’ve fallen from grace, lost our garden of Eden, there is no way back. On the other hand, it can be about spirituality—wanting to give up everything as a path towards enlightenment, towards ego-lessness—and its blind struggle.
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