Many Americans remember the Vietnam War in visceral and visual terms, the latter dictated via television and film. Viet Nguyen’s article addresses how the war has been dealt with in contemporary art by both North American and Vietnamese artists. In contrast to how the majority seeks to remember only the dead of one side, some contemporary American artists—including Martha Rosler and Nancy Spero in the 1960s and 1970s and emerging Vietnamese-American artists Binh Danh and An-My Lê—ask us to remember the dead of both sides. Nguyen will also look at four Vietnamese artists: Vu Giang Huong, Nguyen Thu, Nguyen Van Da, and Truong Hieu. In contrast to the Americans, their work is nationalist—but has been overshadowed by American cinema’s virtual “shock and awe” approach to depicting the Vietnam War on film. The nationalism of Vietnamese contemporary art on the war serves to remind American audiences that the Vietnamese and their artists experienced the war, and art’s relationship to politics, in a radically different fashion.Viet Nguyen published Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002), and has written many articles and catalogue essays, including “The Art of War: Pop Art, Popular Culture, and the Authenticity of Anonymity” for the show transPOP: Korea Vietnam Remix (Arko Arts Center, Arts Council Korea, 2008), and “Impossible to Forget, Difficult to Remember: Vietnam and the Art of Dinh Q. Lê” for the show A Tapestry of Memories: The Art of Dinh Q. Lê (Bellevue Arts Museum, 2007). He has published short stories in Narrative, Gulf Coast, and Best New American Voices, with another forthcoming in TriQuarterly. He is working on a collection of short fiction as well as a book on memory and the war in Vietnam. He is an associate professor at the University of Southern California and received a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley.
2008 — Article
An Eye for an Eye: The Vietnam War in Contemporary Art