Phan Thao Nguyên
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.