Việt Lê is an artist, writer, and curator. Lê is an assistant professor in Visual Studies at the California College of the Arts. He has been published in positions: asia critique; Crab Orchard Review; American Quarterly; Amerasia Journal; Art Journal; and the anthologies Writing from the Perfume River (2010), Strange Cargo (2010), The Spaces Between Us (2010), Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art (2012), among others.
Recent solo exhibitions include lovebang! (Kellogg University Art Gallery, Los Angeles, 2016), vestige (H Gallery Bangkok, 2015), and tan nÁRT cõi lòng | heARTbreak! (Nhà Sàn Collective, Hà Nội). Lê has presented his work at The Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada; University of California-Los Angeles Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA; DoBaeBacSa Gallery, Seoul, Korea; Japan Foundation, Việt Nam; 1a Space, Hong Kong; Bangkok Art & Cultural Center (BACC), Thailand; Civitella Ranieri, Italy; Shanghai Biennale, China; Rio Gay Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; among other venues. White Gaze (Sming Sming Books & Objects, February 2018) is an art book in collaboration with Michelle Dizon and Faith Wilding.
Lê co-curated transPOP: Korea Việt Nam Remix with Yong Soon Min (Seoul, Korea; Sài Gòn, Việt Nam; Irvine, San Francisco, California, USA, 2008-09), the 2012 Taipei Kuandu Biennale and Love in the Time of War (University of California, Santa Barbara and SF Camerawork). He coorganized the 2015 Artistic Interventions confererence of PhD workshops and symposium (Hong Kong). Lê has co-edited special issues of Asian American Literary Review: (Re)Collecting Vietnam (2015), and BOL Journal: Việt Nam and Us (2008). He has also co-edited, with Professor Lan Duong, a special issue of Visual Anthropology (Routledge, forthcoming winter 2018). He is a reviews co-editor, with Professor Laura Kina, of Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas and one of the board members of the Queer Cultural Center.
Lê received his M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. His writing has been translated into Chinese, German, Khmer, and Vietnamese.
The heARTbreak! 2016 sexperimental video (the teaser featured here) is the outgrowth of Việt Lê’s 2014 solo exhibition at H Project Space, Bangkok, comprised of three related interventions based on the 125 year-old building’s former life as a colonial-era Christian orphanage. Queerying time and space, the inter-related projects/ interventions reference the former orphange site, recent protests, as well as Southeast Asian refugee camps in Thailand (2015 was the 40th anniversary of the military engagements in Southeast Asia).
In a durational performance (24-29 December, 2014), the artist “occupied” H Project Space, conducted research, as well as embodied the historic figure of a lovelorn orphan who once lived in the building. During the meditative performance, Lê strung together beads—religious and otherwise—to form (with the assistance of community volunteers) another “curtain” to be hung up inside the space. Dealing with longing and loss, desire and despair, the works reference Felix Gonzales Torres’ mournful installations of curtains (Untitled [Blue Curtains], 1989/9) and beads (Untitled [Golden], 1995) as well as Lawrence Chua’s “sinsational” novel Gold by the Inch.
The artist invited the public to donate beads as well as to string together these beads with him. Using the keywords of refuge, refuse and refusal, the project also invites the public to come interact with the artist and create altars for loved ones or bring simple offerings—objects, drawings, gestures. Set to coincide with the Christmas holiday season, Lê examines the history of Christianity (among other spiritual practices) in Thailand, including H Gallery’s history as a former orphanage and the untimely death of the orphan.
Lastly, within the space, Lê aims to stage the second installment of his LOVE BANG! (a “faux phở-real”) music video trilogy. heART/break! is a sexperimental art music video for an original multi-lingual “hip pop” song (Vietnamese, Thai, Khmer and English). Featuring time-traveling, star-crossed figures (orphans, refugees), the video interweaves the past and the present. The new song pays tongue-in-cheek homage to Thai and Vietnamese tunes as well as Western pop songs, which are ever-present on the streets of Southeast Asia.
These strings of associations (pun intended) are a metaphorical means to look at the layered, traumatized topographies of Southeast Asian identities. The artist explores the divides—and connections—between spirituality and sexuality, the physical and the metaphysical.
- Born: Sài Gòn