On dirt roads, across wood plank bridges, my cousin Anh Ba Phát drove me, on his motorbike, to the place where my mother's childhood home once stood.

Originally built over a hundred years ago, my mother's home was also a store in the bustling village market. Both house and village were burned down twice: first by the occupying French Army, later by the Việt Minh forces. 

The land on which the house once stood, sheltering her family, has since been reclaimed by the Mỹ Long River.

Sáu Thị Nguyễn in 1965. Video footage of rain falling on lotus, cultivated in a bomb crater pond, in her home village of Mỹ Long in 2018. Photo by Constance Mensh for Asian Arts Initiative.

Installation view. Photo by Constance Mensh for Asian Arts Initiative.

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018,  Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds series

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Untitled, 2018, Life after Death: in and near bomb crater ponds

Installation view. Photo by Constance Mensh for Asian Arts Initiative. 

Installation view. Photo by Constance Mensh for Asian Arts Initiative.

Installation view. Photo by Constance Mensh for Asian Arts Initiative.

Installation view. Photo by Constance Mensh for Asian Arts Initiative.

Play

Play

In loving memory of Sáu Thị Nguyễn. 1931 - 2019. Image courtesy of Phil Cho and Asian Arts Initiative

For Đi thì không có đường về (Leave, then there is no way home), I use photography, observational video, sound and storytelling to create an immersive installation about migration, memory, agency, and transformation in my parents’ home villages in Vietnam and in South Philadelphia, the neighborhood where I grew up and is today home to immigrants of all generations and diverse backgrounds. Tracing the cultural and spiritual affinities between communities half the world apart, the installation renders visible the richness of their social life and collective history. 

This work was commissioned by the Asian Arts Initiative, with original funding from the Pew Center for Art and Heritage, Philadelphia. It was on exhibit May 2018, at the SEAMAAC Community Outreach Office in South Philadelphia, as part of the (ex)CHANGE: History Place Presence project.

Using Format