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Southeast Asian Refugee Narratives
This special conversation will take place on Saturday, Dec 5, 2020 at 2:30 pm.
A conversation at USC Pacific Asia Museum on the Southeast Asian refugee experience.We will be sharing our experiences of displacement, conflict, and it’s lasting impact on subsequent generations. The conversation will include Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer Prize-Winning novelist + Professor at USC), Phung Huynh (Los Angeles-based artist + Educator), Ann Le (Los Angeles-based artist + Educator) and Quyen Nguyen-Le (Filmmaker and panel moderator).
We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles March 13 – January 21, 2021
We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles brings attention to the dynamic voices in our diverse metropolis that extend viewers’ knowledge and understanding of the Asia Pacific region. The exhibition highlights seven female contemporary artists of diverse Asian Pacific heritages living and working in Los Angeles. These artists engage with and draw from their lives and family histories to create compelling works of art that invite visitors to think about their own experiences and heritage. Interwoven in their works are personal and universal narratives that give voice to the plural community we call home. This show seeks to inspire visitors to discover connections across boundaries and see that Asian art is expansive and complicated.
Memory can be unreliable and reflects a continuous process of retranslation. Remembering the self is not a case of restoring an original identity, but a continuous process of “remembering,” of putting together moment by moment, or provisional and partial reconstruction. – Ann Le
Ann Le (b. 1981) begins her artistic process by exploring her family photo archive to honor the past and build artworks as a form of cultural protection for future generations. Born in San Diego to a family of refugees from Vietnam, Le encountered firsthand the impact of war and the strength of her family as they rebuilt their lives in America. Her layered images speak to this experience, drawing us in with their dreamlike qualities and leaving a lasting impact through their constructed dialogues.
The works displayed here represent several different series produced by the artist. Together, Le’s photomontages reveal complex constructions that contemplate the meaning and effect of war. She adamantly conveys that those affected by war will not be silenced as they piece together new versions of themselves amid unparalleled, irreversible change.
Photo by Anthony Arcinas
“Reconstructing Slippages in Time”: MultiCultural Center Showcases Vietnamese American Photography of Ann Le
On Jan. 6, 2020 the MultiCultural Center (MCC) lounge at University of California Santa Barbara began hosting “Reconstructing Slippages in Time,” a photo collection by Ann Le. Le, a Vietnamese American photographer based in Los Angeles, has struggled with defining what being Vietnamese American means in our contemporary age through her art. The collection contains images and pieces from Le’s past collections and documents her own personal struggle with her past, blurred by the events of the Vietnam War.
Between Home and Here (2019) is about death in life, life and death, hardness and softness, and a distinct shift between a gothic romance and poetic darkness. It touches on migration, immigration, refugees and immigrants. Pairing imagery from the Vietnam War (hands) and flowers, women and child soldiers with dense jungle foliage as representation and narrative of the people and family directly involved, and the generational trauma that follows.
one never remembers alone,an exhibition, film series, and pedagogical platform, examines the ways memory can be transmitted through generations, both temporally and spatially. The exhibition brought together artists whose work considers the notion that one’s past can be passed on to another. Employing archival and performative interventions in media such as photography, photomontage, video, printmaking, and installation, exhibiting artists jointly activated iterations of memory and formations of kinship, building bridges between themselves and their personal and/or collective lineages. These interventions put forth a visual language that attempts to unravel colonial narratives, convey the varied experience of movement and migration, and imagine an anti-colonial futurity.
The title one never remembers alone references how the concepts of collective memory, diaspora, and cultural identity function as social phenomena. This project interrogates the ways memories are formed through the bonds of kinship related to the experience of dispossession and diasporic movement. As a corollary, one never remembers alone also explores “rememory,” as coined by Toni Morrison in her novel Beloved. Rememory refers to the recollection of an obscured memory that can be similar to a haunting, an uncanny sensation of both familiarity and unfamiliarity.
Vietnamese American artists explore ideas of beauty and identity
Ann Le talks about her piece “Rorschach Technique” at the "Constructions of Disquiet” exhibit of Vietnamese and Vietnamese American photography at the Golden West College’s Community Art Gallery on Feb. 4.
“It’s all about identity, and the wallpaper reminded me of this idea of home,” Le said of her artwork. “I was also thinking of this idea of separation. I was born in the States, and I wanted to talk about that divide in family and separation that happened during the war. Looking at this portrait, you would never know that’s my mother. I just felt like these should be anonymous because this could have been anyone during the war.”
How has developing your work affected your own identity, as an artist, as first generation American?
I’ve become much more curious; I ask more questions to figure out the why’s and how’s. The visual language I’ve developed thus far has formed my true self in this present moment. There is more honesty + vulnerability in my work. As an artist, I have to leave behind the, “ is it good, does it look good?” Good or bad, the engine is running, and there’s a language. Although I don’t feel the pressure of being first-born generation American, there’s an underlining preconception to be pressured. Being Asian American and going into the Arts is taboo, so I’ve been told. There are barriers to be broken, I always tell my students, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”