Williams College Museum of Art Presents Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba: Memorial Project Vietnam June 12–Sept

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Williamstown - Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is pleased to present Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba Memorial Project Vietnam on view in the Media Field gallery June 12–September 6, 2004. Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba creates lyrical, graceful, and spellbinding films that explore Vietnamese history and identity in a profound manner. The exhibition includes Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Toward the Complex-For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards (2001) and the most recent work, Happy New Year-Memorial Project Vietnam II (2003). These two videos are linked by a common underwater setting, vivid, saturated color, choreographed movements, and hypnotic soundtracks. The work of Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba has drawn international attention since its first major appearance in the 2001 Yokohama Triennial. Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Toward the Complex-For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards (2001), his project with Vietnamese cyclo (bicycle-taxi) drivers and fishermen, has resulted in a poetic merger of these two traditional modes of work, which are among the most economically disenfranchised of a country undergoing rapid social transition. In this video, cyclos, driven by fisherman, slowly race each other along the ocean floor. The languid motion and arduous progress of the rickshaw-like contraptions at the bottom of the sea are a compelling symbol for an entire nation discovering its identity after a half-century of political turmoil. With direct reference to the impact of the Vietnam War on his country, Nguyen-Hatsushiba's beautiful camerawork deconstructs the fate of those who are caught between old and new modes of existence. As the divers strain to hold their breath long enough to propel their vehicles a few feet farther, additional tension is created between graceful movement and precarious mortality. In Happy New Year-Memorial Project Vietnam II (2003), a traditional New Year's dragon puppet, carried by seven divers, twists and turns beneath the waves in a dreamy evocation of the pandemonium of street festivals. The dragon's sinuous movement is contrasted with that of the Fate Machine, a giant orb that shoots small balls at random intervals toward the water's surface. As the balls reach the air, they burst into clouds of colored powder, signifying a sudden release from a state of danger. Like its predecessor, Happy New Year uses water as a metaphor for Vietnam, from the more literal reading of a peninsular country with a considerable coastline to the historical resonance of the "boat people," who fled the country by the tens of thousands when the war ended in 1975. The adaptation of the Lunar New Year celebration as the basis for this work is a direct reference to the 1968 Tet Offensive, which took place in the form of a series of surprise attacks by North Vietnamese forces during the year's most significant holiday. In this work, Nguyen-Hatsushiba affirms his position as one of the most innovative young Southeast Asian artists on the international scene, and as a forceful interpreter of themes of cultural identity and its unfolding dialogue with history. About the Artist 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 Yokohama Triennale and the Kwangju, Sydney, and São Paolo Biennials. Raised in Japan and educated in the United States, the artist now lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s Memorial Project Vietnam is toured by UC Berkeley Art Museum. Generous support for the production of the exhibition is provided by The Rockefeller Foundation and the LEF Foundation. Happy New Year-Memorial Project Vietnam II was produced by the MATRIX Program with assistance from the New Museum, New York. The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by the generous endowment gift of Phyllis C. Wattis. Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Ann M. Hatch, Art Berliner, Christopher Vroom and Illya Szilak, Eric McDougall, and Glenn and April Bucksbaum. Publicity Images Available Publicity images for Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba Memorial Project Vietnam and other current exhibitions are available for use. Images include video stills from Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Toward the Complex-For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards (2001) and Happy New Year-Memorial Project Vietnam II (2003). They can be found at www.wcma.org/press. The Williams College Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free and the museum is wheelchair accessible. Contact: Suzanne Augugliaro, Public Relations Coordinator 413.597.3178; WCMA@williams.edu; www.wcma.org.
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