TOWARDS THE FUTURE, STRATEGIES OF IDENTITY AND REPRESENTATION

The abrupt and violent socio-political changes in the last two hundred years have demonstrated with the transient and relational nature of culture and how it is conditioned by the language of power, production and (most currently) mass media and technology.  

Contemporary art is a broad category of creative production encompassing countless practices marked by two clear impulses. The first focuses on locating, uncovering, critiquing, or subverting the epistemological and ideological foundations of our context, its institutions and conventions and our relationship with the environment that surround  us.  The second impulse is a heightened historical consciousness of the conditions, means and production of art.  My motivation to use lacquer as the subject matter in my practice contains the impulse to analyze how the concept of identity is created and justified through geographical territories, its indigenous materials, languages, and to explore the mechanisms that convert these cultural lessons into absolute truths.  With the changing relations of human geography, blurred borders and hybrid identities, how do we “become” local?  What models from the past are still salient for today?  Sơn Ta to me is a substance that embodies symbolic territory, the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of what is autochthonous or local. 

In my work, the fact of that Sơn Ta is a medium has a marked designation of origin is no longer used to to demarcate a politico-cultural difference but rather as a medium to compare, discuss and contribute from a self-aware, polysemic and cross-cultural perspective.  I think of the Sơn Ta as personal tool to transform thought habits about a fixed notion what is Vietnamese, Vietnamese art, and creating meaning and value to the things we have by transforming a local resource into cultural heritage.  As an agent for change, it is visibly eloquent medium to articulate a process of moving beyond from its colonial and revolutionary roots towards a more transcultural perspective.   Facing the new global reality, the use of Sơn Ta is my way of negotiating between the extremes of global homogenization and territorial localism.