Thao Nguyen Phan
In Tropical Siesta, Thao Nguyen Phan interweaves different narratives at the border between realism and fantasy. Drawing back on the problematic agrarian reforms of post-war Vietnam which led to the redistribution of the land and collective farming, Phan places children at the forefront as protagonists of an imagined commune wherein play and inertia become tools of defiance and escape.
In this rural community, children reformulate various observations made by French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes, such as local punishment methods or a fairy tale of water goddesses. While pursuing a proselytism mission on behalf of the Catholic Church in the region, de Rhodes is well-known for perfecting the Vietnamese romanized script that constitutes the modern Vietnamese writing system (chữ Quốc ngữ). Juxtaposing seventeenth century travel literature with contemporary images, Phan produces a palimpsest of Vietnam’s history, layering voices from the present and the past. If, at first sight, the images seduce viewers with their bright colors and delicate drawings, a much darker, violent imaginary takes hold the more one immerses into the film.
Thảo Nguyên Phan (b. 1987, Ho Chi Minh City) is a multimedia artist whose practice encompasses painting, installation and “theatrical fields”, including what she calls performance gesture and moving images. Through literature, philosophy and daily life, Phan observes ambiguous issues in social convention, history and tradition. Phan has exhibited widely in Vietnam and abroad, with solo and group exhibitions at Sharjah Biennale (2019), Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (2018); Dhaka Art Summit (2018); Para Site, Hong Kong (2018); The Factory Contemporary Art Centre, Ho Chi Minh City (2017); Nha San Collective, Hanoi (2017); Bétonsalon, Paris (2016); Goethe-Institut, Hanoi (2015); Institute for Contemporary Arts Singapore (2014); and Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (2013), among others. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Samdani Art Foundation, Dhaka; Singapore Art Museum, Singapore; and Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, San Francisco. In addition to her work as a multimedia artist, she is a co-founder of the Art Labor collective, which explores cross disciplinary practices and develops art projects that benefit the local community. Phan received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with first class honours) from Lasalle College of Arts, Singapore (2009) and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2013).