Visualizing Vietnam

with Thi Bui, An-My Lê, & Anne Ishii

Friday, June 2, 2017 7:00pm
Asian American Writers' Workshop
112 W 27 St 6FL
New York, New York 10001

Media Gallery

Come see two artists interrogating the visual narratives of the Vietnam war and refugee experience: MacArthur “Genius” An-My Lê and graphic novelist Thi Bui. Lê’s images depict re-enactments of the Vietnam War and play-scenarios of US Marines fighting a Middle Eastern war in California, creating a liminal space between documentary and staged and photography, history and fiction. Thi Bui’s The Best We Can Do: An Illustrated Memoir tells the story about her family’s departure from Vietnam. Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Nguyen writes that it ”delivers the painful truth that most Vietnamese of the 20th century know in an utterly personal fashion—that history is found in the marrow of one’s bones.” Moderated by AAWW Board Member Anne Ishii of MASSIVE GOODS.

RESERVE A SEAT!
$5 SUGGESTED DONATION | OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Thi Bui’s The Best We Can Do documents the story of her family's daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui tells the story of adjusting to life as a first-time mother and what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. A haunting poetic graphic novel about family, identity, and home, the book was selected for an ABA Indies Introduce and Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers. As Maxine Hong Kingston writes, ““With great mastery of writing and drawing, Thi Bui shows the consequences of war lasting from generation to generation. The Best We Could Do honors Vietnam the way Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis honors Iran. And it’s fun to read too.”

An-My Lê’s represents the legacy of war, specifically the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq, through seemingly factual images that in fact undermine their own ability to represent. Her project Small Wars (1999–2002) initially appears to be photographs of the Vietnam War--but in fact consists of Vietnam War reenactments in South Carolina. Another project, 29 Palms (2003–04), seemingly show American soldiers during the second Iraq War--but these Marines have been deployed in a simulated Middle East in California. As Museum of Contemporary Photography Curator Karen Irvine writes, “These dramatizations of war (one a reenactment, one a rehearsal) allow her to create a unique kind of war imagery—one that is unexpected, removed, and revelatory… By bringing added resonance to the phrase “the theater of war,” Lê asks us to reconsider the fictions that cloud the ways in which war is experienced, remembered, and represented.” Saigon-born An-My Lê left Vietnam with her family as a teenager in 1975, the final year of the war, eventually settling in the United States as a political refugee. A Guggenheim Fellow, she has been exhibited in MOMA, P.S.1, and the Whitney Biennale.

Anne Ishii is an AAWW Board Member and co-editor of MASSIVE GOODS, a fashion brand, publisher, and creative agency representing queer and feminist artists from Japan. MASSIVE’s mission is to spread iconoclastic artwork addressing gender and sexuality to new audiences and new forms, from museum walls to bodies everywhere. Check out Anne in The Margins interviewing Jillian Tamaki, Michael DeForge, and comics publisher Annie Koyama.

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