News — 30 Aug 2008

This summer, Docking Station, the project space of Stedelijk Museum CS presents: Package Tour, an installation by Danish/Vietnamese artist Danh Vo. 

It is an exhibition that centres on paradoxes, associations, facts and fictions, confronting the viewer with notions of ‘otherness’ and with a vision of identity as a construct. The installation consists of three recent works and a work specially made for Docking Station. Package Tour is Vo’s Dutch debut exhibition. 

Danh Vo, born in 1975 in Vietnam, has Danish nationality. His became Danish more or less by accident: in 1980 he, his immediate family and a group of relatives, fled Vietnam in a boat built by his father. The refugees’ dream of a new life in America was cut short when they were picked up by a Danish tanker. This is how, at the age of four, Vo arrived in Copenhagen. 

Vo’s personal history of migration and adjustment is an important reference point for his artistic practice. In his work, he explores themes ranging from identity, authorship, and ownership to origin. He uses intimate, personal material to show that identity is a construction of projections, assumptions and attributed values. Adopting a cool, conceptual style, Vo embarks upon a subtle investigation of the Western fascination for the exotic and unknown. 

For Vo, appropriating the history of others is a way of unravelling monolithic ideas about identity. And he does so with great verve, starting with himself. The artist has married, then divorced, a series of people, simply to add their names to his. In his installations he uses objects, photos and documentation that seem connected to his family history. In a glass cabinet at the entrance to Docking Station, are a number of objects that belong to his father: a Rolex watch, a Dupont cigarette lighter and an American military ring. There is also a wooden cross bearing words in Vietnamese, which is said to have been a temporary marker on his grandmother’s grave.

A stand holds a book of love letters from an American anthropologist sequestered in Vietnam during the war years, who became fascinated by the intimacy that exists between men in Vietnam. The letters relate accounts of American soldiers’ dalliances with Vietnamese boys during the war. There is also a will in which the anthropologist leaves all his worldly goods to Vo. 

Danh Vo is a graduate of the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and the Städelschule in Frankfurt. In 2007, he was awarded the renowned blauorange art prize of the Deutsche Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbank. This summer, Vo is also exhibiting at the international art biennale Manifesta 7 in Trentino/South Tirol.

The exhibition is curated by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, curator Stedelijk Museum. Vo’s artist’s contribution will be published in the new Stedelijk Museum Bulletin. 

The exhibition is made possible with the support of the Danish Arts Council, Copenhagen.