Drawing upon mystical ritual and indigenous mythologies, the work of Trương Công Tùng (b. 1986, Đắk Lắk province, Vietnam) is characterized by a poetic sensitivity to history, landscape, and materiality. His dynamic installations often incorporate natural materials that bear the traces of time and the echoes of generations and are composed in such a way as to reimagine the land from a site of colonial empire to one of communion. Disrupting the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds, Trương’s practice reconfigures elements of each to reframe the relationship between the living and the inanimate.
Trương’s first museum solo exhibition brings together a constellation of sculptural and video works produced over the last three years. At the gallery entrance is a curtain of wooden beads made from a combination of coffee, cashew, and forest trees, all of which have been exploited throughout the artist’s homeland in the Central Highlands of Vietnam due to the relentless forces of war and industrialization. Created in homage to the dislocated, extracted, and disappeared, the network of suspended beads invites visitors to reflect on their own connections to these complex histories of people and place. Also on view is an installation made from gourds, water, soil, and seeds. The gourds are joined by a web of clear plastic tubes through which flowing water and earth create an undercurrent of migration from one gourd to the next. Each is sealed with a glossy finish made using lacquer, a once-prized and heavily traded material that is derived from tree sap. In the lacquerware painting tradition, lacquer is added to an object’s surface and then polished to reveal the hidden layers beneath. For the artist, this unearthing is a sacred act.
Reminiscent of the forest depths with its darkness, shadows, and gentle hums of insects and other life, Trương Công Tùng’s living exhibition requires ongoing cultivation and care, allowing it to become a metaphor for, and a journey of, co-existence and transformation.