Thao-Nguyên Phan
Untitled (Heads)

Untitled (Heads) by Phan Thao Nguyên, locates the jute plant as both the cause and witness of a tragic event. When Vietnamese farmers were forced to grow jute instead of rice during the Japanese occupation of then French Indochina from 1940–45, it led to large-scale famine and the death of two million Vietnamese. The form of the sculpture is inspired by the Ma Mot tree, a totemic tree constructed by Tai minorities in Northern Vietnam for religious purposes where objects such as animal bones and amulets are hung, representing a dead or evil spirit. The artist reincarnates the jute plant as a Ma Mot tree, hanging on its drooping branches are portraits of farmers whom she interviewed during the course of her research, in an attempt to create a ritual yet individualized space of healing from painful histories. 

Thao-Nguyên Phan is a multimedia artist who lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. She uses painting, installation, video and performance to depict historical events, narrative traditions and minor gestures that challenge received ideas and social conventions Through literature, philosophy, poetics, and daily life, she observes ambiguous issues in social convention, history and tradition. Thao-Nguyên is also a member of the collective Art Labor. This collective explores cross-disciplinary practices and develops art projects that will benefit the local community. She is expanding her “theatrical fields,” including what she calls performance gesture and moving images.