Truthful Acts and Historical Fictions: Artists Re-historicizations of the Vietnam War

Presented by Dr. Nora A. Taylor

The Vietnam War is variously known as the first Television War or the most widely mediated war in history. News coverage of the War notwithstanding, it has become the subject of countless memoirs, films, and political art. While many of those creative endeavors were made from the perspective of, or against, those who fought the War, a considerable body of literature and art work has come from the side of the victims, the refugees and in the words of scholar Viet Thanh Nguyen, the dead. In recent years, a number of artists of Vietnamese descent have revisited not the war itself, but its remains. These artists include, among others, An My Le (b. 1961) Danh Vo (b. 1975) Dinh Q. Le (b. 1968) and The Propeller Group (founded in 2006). In using various sources of archival documents, re-enactments, and found photographs, they employ history or historical relics as ready-mades. In doing so, they are commenting on the processes of recorded history and its role in commemorative projects. Their, at times, playful objectification of history prompts us to reflect on the veracity of artifacts and the reliability of our vision of the past.
Dr. Nora A. Taylor is the Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Painters in Hanoi: An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art (Hawaii and NUS Press, 2004 and 2009) as well as numerous articles on modern and contemporary Southeast Asian and Vietnamese art. She also was curator of Changing Identity: Recent Work by Female Artists from Vietnam, organized by International Arts and Artists based in Washington DC, that toured the US from 2007-2009. This talk is based on an upcoming article for the Art Journal's special issue on "History as Figure" in contemporary South and Southeast Asian art.

This talk is being held in conjunction with The Propeller Group exhibition and is included with Museum general admission.


Sponsored by: 

Asian Arts Council, a support group of Phoenix Art Museum.


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