White Crow Art Daily

Thu Van Tran – Impurity and interference

Based on her experiences as a Vietnamese woman living in France, in her work she addresses the colonial history of her native country and the impact of power and exploitation. In her latest series of works she deals with the raw material rubber, which in this context stands for the suppression of Vietnam under French colonial rule.

The starting point for the works, specially produced for the exhibition, is a relief on the facade of the Palais de la Porte Dorée, which was built in 1931 on the occasion of the Colonial Exhibition in Paris. Here, the peoples of the French colonies are depicted while extracting raw materials such as rubber and exotic woods, yet in the inside of the palace the so-called “intellectual” contributions by France to the civilization of the indigenous peoples are illustrated on a monumental fresco.

In the mural work Penetrable (2016) and the sculpture Échange de présents (2016), Thu Van Tran takes up the material and the symbolism of the commodity rubber and illuminates the bitter irony in the depiction of the supposed exchange. Her works visualize how the writing of history is manifested with the occupying power’s Western view on the population of the colonies.


The memory work materializes in the photograms Sunstroke (2016) through traces of her notebooks, sketch blocks and remnants from her studio. In addition, the Super 8 film Far East (2016) will be shown, in which Thu Van Tran examines the historical and political links between Vietnam and the former GDR and how in Berlin she embarks on a search for traces and repercussions of the conceived communism.

Thu Van Tran explores the ambiguity of all pure forms (minimal heritage, moral spotlessness, fascination for the immaculate entity). For her, impurity and interference are structuring states of affairs, a kind of affective duality whose source is the colonial history which ties the country of her birth and the country where she now lives.