Editor's Pick: Exhibition Depicts the Colorful Lives of Vietnamese Expats in Germany
In their previous art projects such as "The Bridge" (2010) from the Hien Luong Bridge, which divided Vietnam into two regions of North and South, to the North-South Korean border near Panmunjom, and the Berlin Wall, the brothers impressed with striking on-site performances at historical landmarks.
In "The Return," the twins revisited the theme of separation and reunion. After more than a decade, they weaved their own interpretation of German - a foreign land with that of fellow Vietnamese residents here. The results are more than hundreds of photographs and a video of the twin artists in conversation with Vietnamese people in Germany.
The artworks are taken in several locations across Germany like Halle, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, and Leipzig. While doing their residency programs in Germany, Le Ngoc Thanh và Le Duc Hai spent time exploring the beauty of European architecture, transportations, and lifestyles in both the cities and the countryside.
The works of public art can be seen multiple times in the photographs, showing the artists' interest in learning about art installation and the liveliness of the urban landscape in Germany. The audience can also spot the blue plastic chairs and tables, some daily calendars with both Western and Am Lich dates (Am Lich means according to the Lunar calendar) or Vietnamese dishes in the photographs. They show a lesser-known side of Germany, which is home to a diverse population made up of immigrants.
|Le Ngoc Thanh and Le Duc Hai (Le brothers) created "The Return" after spening two months of March and April 2023 in Germany (Photo: Nhung Nguyen).
At the same time, the artists reached out to the Vietnamese community here, mostly by coming to Vietnamese cuisine restaurants in the cities. At the cozy atmosphere of these shops, the people they met started to open up and reveal individual history and memories. Some of the stories are about immigration, recalling the past and concerning the unprecedented future. They come from different backgrounds like international students and labor exchange workers in the 1970s and 1980s, workers after Doi Moi (Renovation period in the 1990s).
Meanwhile, younger Vietnamese interviewees shared a completely different side of the stories, confessing how they struggle to connect with their Vietnamese roots as the second or third generation of immigrants.
|The exhibiton displays photos from the selections of 1500 captures (Photo: Nhung Nguyen).
Exhibition curator Nguyen Anh Tuan shared that the interviews are made up of conversations rather than fixed questionnaires. They artists strived to present the authentic stories of interviewees by asking them to share about their daily lives in the setting of their own homes or workspaces. That way, the audiences also feel closer to the persons on the screen and gain more understanding about the community of Vietnamese people living aboard.
|Viewers at the exhibition come to see wall-to-wal nets of images (photo: Nhung Nguyen).
The interviews, together with wall-to-wal nets of images conveys the theme of returning after being separated without despair or negativity. It celebrates the community full of strong-minded individuals who are building their lives in a foreign land.
During their two-month residency in Germany in March-April 2023, Le brothers visited many cities such as Halle, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, and Leipzig (Photo: Nhung Nguyen)
Le Ngoc Thanh and Le Duc Hai were born in 1975 in Quang Binh province. They graduated from the University of Arts (Hue University) in 2000, and currently live and work as artists in Hue. The two brothers' works are present in many museums and domestic and international private locations as well as collections across many continents, for example Saigon Open City (HCMC, 2006), Palais de Tokyo in Paris (France, 2015), Gwangju Art Museum (South Korea, 2016), The Nord Gallery in Berlin (Germany, 2018), B3 film Biennale Frankfurt (Germany, 2023),
|"The Return" opens from January 8-28 at the Manzi Exhibition Space (Hanoi) before being shown in Germany in May 2024.
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