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In the Shadow of the Future
In collaboration with l'Union des Jeunes Vietnamiens de France (UJVF) and l'Union Générale des Vietnamiens de France (UGVF)
Architectural installation, three-channel digital video, color, sound, hypertufa, full spectrum lights, plants (invasive and non-invasive), concrete
2014 – 2019

“Imperialist discourse framed contemporaneous territories and peoples as primitive and anachronistic, or in other words, intransigent, or impassive, to forward movement or progress; such discourse encloses racial, colonial other as on the outside through instrumental uses of time. Thus do post-colonial critics reveal these temporal modes as worlding processes that fire the crucible of empire, of modernity.”

— Mimi Thi Nguyen, The Gift of Freedom

In 1979, Phạm Tuân, a Vietnamese fighter pilot, was chosen to go into orbit with the Russian cosmonaut Victor Gorbatko as the first Asian in space as part of the Soviet Intercosmos Program, a political project of friendship diplomacy to connect the newly-formed communist governments. In the same year, thousands left Vietnam after the war to escape persecution from the new communist government. Many landed in the commune of Ivry-sur-Seine, a banlieue on the outskirts of Paris that hosts one of the highest concentrations of Vietnamese in France, most settling as refugees from the Vietnam War. 

This urban landscape serves as the back drop of Hương Ngô’s exhibition at 4th Ward Project Space, In the Shadow of the Future. Begun in 2014, Ngô worked with members of the Vietnamese community in Paris to create a multi-channel video installation based on the character of Phạm Tuân, who quietly haunts these remnants of futuristic housing projects – many named after communist heroes – aged architectural stand-ins for political ideals transported and still nurtured by inhabitants of this communist stronghold today. Pointing to this moment in time and the cultural artifacts that remain, Ngô interrogates how questions of coexistence – on both global and local levels – might reclaim currency and expansive potential in our current moment. 

Performers: Lương Nguyễn Liêm Bình, Minh Ly Lise Le Thai, Anh Cương Nguyễn, UJVF & UGVF.
Music: Hợp Ca Quê Hương, Director: Nguyễn Ngân Hà, Solist: Ánh Tuyết, Pianist: Duy Tâm (”Tiếng hát giữa rừng Pác Bó”), Nodey (Pác Bó Remix).
Special Thanks: Nguyễn Dac Minh.
Plants donated by or traded from: Soheila Azadi, Mara Baker, Laura Davis, Richard Gessert, Anthony Hamilton, & Nhung Walsh.