Since returning to Vietnam, a country where 40% of the population is under 30, Nguyen has been making art about Vietnam’s youth subculture. In this new body of work, Nguyen is interested in “how Vietnamese youth create and imagine America through this American subculture of rap music, and in turn, how America creates and reiterates, perhaps perpetuates particular ideas of Vietnam through the same language. This body of work is about sound, rhythm, correspondence, connection, and disconnection; it is ‘pop culture’ struggling to exist in the context of Vietnam and becoming redefined as the ‘underground’ in its process of cultural infiltration.”
Quiet Shiny Words / Cultural Doppelgangbangers comprises three sets of work. In “Letters from Saigon to Saigon,” Nguyen will present large photographs of the handwritten letters of aspiring Vietnamese rapper Wowy to American rapper Saigon. The work is humorous, touching and profound, revealing both Wowy’s hopes and respect for Saigon, who ironically adopted the name as a reminder of racial oppression of blacks in the US. While doing jail time, Saigon came across the Wallace Terry book “Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: an Oral History, which chronicles the experiences of black men who felt they were fighting, in addition to a foreign enemy, racial tensions with their white American soldiers.
A second set of work entitled, “Hip Hop History Sampling Hip Hop History: The Red Remix” features a mix of a compilation of over 60 rap songs containing references to Vietnam blasting from a custom-built glossy red speaker placed on the back of a bicycle. A group of 8 photographs documenting Wowy and the bicycle navigating the streets of Ho Chi Minh City will also be exhibited.
In “Take Cover, Take Care” Nguyen worked with a Vietnamese artisan to engrave two sewage drain covers. One manhole cover, engraved with lyrics from Tupac Shakur’s “I Don’t Give a Fuck” from his album “2Pacalypse Now” will be exhibited face down in the gallery on a metal frame. A mirror at the base of the frame allows viewers to read the text inverted. Having switched the old drain cover outside the gallery’s door with a cover engraved with Wowy’s own lyrics, Nguyen will also exhibit a photo of the moment just before he laid the new cover down into the ground, hidden forever from the public.