‘My marriage’ is an ongoing project by Võ Thuỷ Tiên, which delves into the different layers of the artist’s personal life, and explores ideas of marriage and motherhood, domesticity and the family, and the complexity of love and relationships. Via Thuỷ Tiên’s own (sometimes imagined) past, these themes are given shape through the usage and collage of certain images of fruit and objects (some considered highly symbolic in Vietnamese cultural life). They appear in works of photography, sculpture and moving image throughout the exhibition. Betel-nuts (a significant gift a groom is to offer his bride’s family) are shown with photos of grapefruit, papaya and bananas (signifying the power of youth and fertility). While sticks of incense (a ritual object used to connect the spirit world with the living) appear alongside shots of a wedding dress and chinawares (representing kitchen chores, a domestic task that is still today, mainly expected of a woman).
Like human life, fruits perish and objects decay. Portrayed as fresh, ripe and intact, the fruit and objects stand as symbols of abundance and vitality. However, by playfully peeling their skin, breaking them apart, smashing them to pieces, and then painstakingly re-combining the fragments and leftovers to form new configurations, Thuỷ Tiên produces works that provoke, at times, a sense of familiarity, and at others, a feeling of strangeness. The changing of their color palette – from blood red, baby pink, to cool blue and neutral white – further alludes to the (simultaneously existing, but often contrasting) emotions and states of being, which anyone would have to endure in their own journey through life (or in Thuỷ Tiên’s case, in her own journey of marriage).
In altered states and hybridized forms, the fruit and objects also serve as a reflection of the transitory nature of all things, and as a reminder of the inevitability of change. Contemplating the emotional spaces this exhibition conjures, we realize: in attempting to fulfill our desires, we sometimes will have to sacrifice; in searching for happiness, we sometimes will have to face loss; in striving for wholeness, we sometimes will have to separate.
This exhibition is the first in the 2019 edition of ‘Materialize’, a program that aims to provide exhibition opportunities for Vietnamese artists who have had little chance to create exhibitions of their art in Vietnam. Artists are challenged to extend their experimentation with concept and media beyond their training and general assumptions about art. This program is open for application to artists born and currently living in Vietnam and over the age of 25. Artists must submit specific information for consideration, which is assessed by an appointed jury. The next application call for Materialize 2020 will be updated soon.
*Image courtesy of the artist.