in the truck
thirsty night. hundred shades of grass. 39. three years have passed.
Immigration offers people a purpose in life, so they flee, differing only in the reason they leave and the destination of their arrival. Three years has passed since the finding of thirty-nine bodies of Vietnamese immigrants in a refrigerated truck container in Southeast England (10/2019 – 10/2022). Relocating has always been a way of life, although the decision to leave has never been easy, but a disorienting experience. Unlike the Vietnamese boat people who fled Vietnam for political reasons, refugees nowadays leave the country for economic opportunities. Very often, they are people from poor rural families, who risk themself with the illusion of changing their life in the Western world.
Living on a truck at Magirus Art Space, Xuan Ha holds a perplexed feeling thinking of exiled identities in the mist. The truck is not only a living space but also acts as an imaginary slender line among the suspended state of life/death, migration/settlement, living/surviving. Xuan Ha exposes layers of her feeling by covering the truck with nearly 700 sheets of paper made from grass, waterweeds, and waste paper. Weeds are invasive, unwanted plants, capable of developing in any condition, just like the very impossibility of humans living transparently with zero sin. The mixture of grass and waste paper collected from everyday life (including toilet paper, tissue, newspaper, packaging) was shredded and then soaked in slurry, and the process repeated: the will to survive is filtered and kept while the leftover is eliminated, until it is replete to cover every part of the truck, and the truck then appears as an aged grave.
Xuan Ha assigns a number from one to thirty-nine for each sheet of paper. There is a game where players spot the spoken number and memorize the position of that number. Tiny numbers lurking in the overlapping fibers of grass and leaves on the paper, waiting to be found out. To be found out is difficult, if not hopeless – the hopelessness of seeking air inside that container, the hopelessness of a new life, the hopelessness of seeing their child dying and unable to do anything. Visitors who come to the open studio are asked to spot a number. Next, they can decide whether to bring it home and keep it as a memory or burn it just like the practice of cremation of Vietnamese people to memorize their loved one, so that in the end, the truck reincarnated, ready for its new journey.
Organized by Air Magirus and Maakfabriek
Translated by Duyen Le
To see more of the process: Art residency at Air Magirus
© 2022 Nguyen Vu Xuan Ha
OPEN STUDIO 28.10.2022