© 2016

Love in the Time of War

Nguyễn Quốc Thanh

No, please. I can't face the reflection
of metal on your skin & in your eyes,
can't risk weaving new breath into war fog.
The anger of the trees is rooted in the soil.
— Yusef Komunyaaka, Love in the Time of War
Love is a battlefield.
— Pat Benatar
What’s the relationship between war and intimacy, between politics and the personal, the body and the body politic? Connecting the fortieth anniversary of the military engagements in Southeast Asia (2015) and current wars overseas and on U.S. streets, the exhibition features emerging and established artists with deep connections to Phnom Penh, Paris, Hà Nội, Los Angeles, and in-between.

The homefront and homoerotics— longing and loss: in light of dark military engagements then and now, these artists query—and queer— the divide between violence and love, between the state and intimate statements.

Anida Yoeu Ali

Anida Yoeu Ali | Bo | Francisco Camacho Herrera | Nguyễn Quốc Thanh |
Amy Lee Sanford | Trinh T. Minh-ha | Delicious Taste | Studio Revolt | Vănguard | Vuth Lyno | Bruce Yonemoto

Anida Yoeu Ali’s (Tacoma) The Buddhist Bug (2012-14) project explores the artist’s “spiritual turmoil between Buddhism and Islam,” belonging and displacement. Ali’s Red Chador project (2015-16)—performed in Paris, Hartford, and Washington D.C.—uses religious aesthetics to provoke discussions of raced and gendered otherness, and to question the line between tenderness and terror. For the closing of the exhibition, Ali will do a durational performance in San Francisco’s public spaces.

Delicious Taste’s (Grant Levy-Lucero and Bruce Yonemoto, Los Angeles) large-scale installations 1968 (on view at UC Santa Barbara) and 1984 (SF Camerawork) —consists of interwoven discarded computer cords, digital equipment and cameras—r references George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 as well as 1968's world-wide protests and political unrest. The works reimagine Quipus—early haptic “computers” from the Incan empire of Peru, which used corded knots 4,000 years ago as a way to transmit information (on social life, ideas, trade) to succeeding generations.

Uncanny homosocial portraits of fresh-faced Vietnamese military officers by Nguyễn Quốc Thành (Hà Nội) urges the viewer to ask, to tell telltale signs.

Amy Lee Sanford
’s (New York) The Unfolding series focus on letter fragments written by her father in Cambodia between 1968-1975 to her stepmother in the United States—the only traces of a family bound through parchment, unbound by genocide.

Trinh T. Minh-ha’s (Berkeley) experimental feature length film Forgetting Vietnam (2015, 90 mins TRT) muses on re-memory, gendered bodies and political bodies— framed by the end of the American War and the unending war on terrorism.

The “out and proud” subjects (Thoamada I, 2012) photographed by Vuth Lyno (Phnom Penh) look like they are wearing war paint, but their visages both reveal and conceal contemporary Khmer society’s incongruities. In Thoamada II (2013), photographic diptychs of Khmer LGBT community members and their families, Vuth interviews his subjects and then photographs their reenactments of life then and now.

The North South East West series by Bruce Yonemoto (Los Angeles), evoking homosocial—and possibly homoerotic— daguerreotypes, uncovers the hidden history of Civil War soldiers of Asian descent.

A standalone website features online-only projects including a graphic memoir, zines, videos, and virtual platforms by Bo (Oakland), Francisco Camacho Herrera (Bogota, Amsterdam), as well as artist collectives Studio Revolt and Vănguard. Their individual projects deal with queer(ing) communities, political protest, trans (dis)identifications, and the traumas of displacement.

The artists in this group exhibition embody the contradictions of engaging love—its contingency and urgency— in a time of eternal wars.