Loan Nguyen (born in Lausanne, 1977) holds a Master of Fine Arts from HEAD, Geneva. Trained as a professional photographer, Loan soon became aware of an inner urge to speak out to the world as an artist. Her latest projects include several performances across Switzerland at locations such as BNP Paribas Art Awards in Geneva, Standard/Deluxe in Lausanne, and Festival des Arts Vivant in Nyon.
Loan Nguyen’s artistic work dissects the issue of mnemonic displacement and its effects on personality. Driven by an exciting personal adventure and a personality shift that occurred as a result, Loan’s practice involves interviewing people about their adventures and recording their voices. Using an earpiece, she repeats the words of each narrator to the public. The artist’s voice and body act as mediators while the photographs showcased on the wall enhance each adventure on a visual level: “I am interested in how image and narrative coalesce and work together. When a person narrates his or her adventure as a testimony, we—the audience—don’t really question its validity. But even when people think they are telling the truth, there is always an element of fiction, simply because memory is never accurate.”
SAA: What kind of visual support have you chosen for your performance at the Swiss Art Awards in Basel?
LG: This time I didn’t want the accompanying images to merely recreate the scenes of the stories I narrate. I still consider myself a photographer and I very much enjoy the process of producing photos. I just had the idea that the images shouldn’t belong to a series and shouldn’t illustrate the narratives. This opened up a whole range of possibilities; basically it meant that I could show almost anything. I finally made a selection of seven photos which became my personal interpretation of the narratives. For example, one of them depicts a page from “The Odyssey” by Homer, where the whole text is blanked out except the expressions of directions and movement. As I perform I move from image to image, traversing the entire space and wandering through the public, while a spotlight illuminates the photos one after another as the narration unravels.
SAA: In reference to the topic of migration, how do you position yourself artistically within this context?
LN: For a while, I used to work on stories about people who got lost in nature. These narratives of displacement naturally led me to the topic of migration—although it’s a topic I find very difficult to work on, especially when using the medium of photography.
I often ask myself: how can we really connect to the photos of migrating people we see in the media? I started recording people who at some point were or still are in a state of migration. The performance I will present at the Swiss Art Awards includes two of these interviews. One is with my aunt who fled from Vietnam in 1978, crossing the sea to reach a camp in Malaysia. The other one is with a Romanian woman who has been roaming the streets of Lausanne for ten years now. The performance is presented as a single narration split into five chapters. The images I’ve selected for the performance piece reveal a different angle on the topics of displacement and migration. I wanted to somehow approach this topic we are all aware of, but from a different perspective: namely not to show people migrating to Europe, but to highlight the cyclical recurrence of history.
More about Loan Nguyen can be found here.
Text: Julia Gogoleva.
Published within the course Tour de Suisse. Kunst und ihre Institutionen in der Schweiz, a cooperation between the institute art history of the University of Zurich and the University of Fribourg, with support of the Boner Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur.