Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas: Battle of Easel Point - Memorial Project Okinawa
Filmed underwater, this is the third video in Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s “Memorial Project” series which began in 2001. The title already implies the cultural complexities about to be ironically unravelled: Ho Chi Minh is parodied and Okinawa (where this was filmed) was a battle site in Japan during World War II which then became an American training base during the Vietnam War. To a remix of James Bond movie tracks composed by Quoc Bao, no less than thirty divers in wet suits and full gear advance against the water resistance armed with cartridges of color. They attack trestles with blank canvases on which they attempt to paint a yellow star but, after a showering of digital white stars likened to the American flag (presumably alluding to Christmassy snow), they find themselves uncontrollably portraying actors who played in Vietnam-related films like Marlon Brando, Michael Cimino, Robert De Niro… which then, end up leading to collapse and dissolving. Water creates a parallel world, symbolic of universal consciousness, which allows for the slow contemplation of these potentially alienating cultural transmissions. Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s dramatized soft critique is across the board, from the sheer weight of Vietnamese tradition on one hand, to America’s geo-political and cultural hegemony on the other, as well as the way war is represented in the media and in cinema (Vietnam was one of the first conflicts to have broad coverage).
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba initially trained as a painter in the United States and references to the act of paint easel painting and are regularly present in his videos. Since 2001, he is world renowned for his series of underwater videos, called “Memorial Project”, which revisit the history and culture of Vietnam, and its relations with the United States. Although the actual filming has an actual dangerous side for the artist and the actors, as a direct connection with Vietnamese boat people, they have a certain dream-like quality due to the slow motion in the liquid environment. typical national tropes which are integrated count rickshaws, rice picking, water puppets and dragons, the yellow star on the flag but these are generally intermingled and confused by overriding American cultural references. Through running performances across cities around the world, titled Breathing is Free: 12,756.3, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba pursues his humanistic artistic action denouncing global refugee crisis. His practice also includes drawing and large scale installations.
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, who was born in Japan in 1968, was educated in the United States and now lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.