< Thu Van Tran
La dix-huitième place
Thu Van Tran
May 17, 2013 - Jul 13, 2013
Centre d’Art Villa du Parc, Annemasse (France)
Borrowing a supposedly Brechtian expression whose exact reference momentarily escapes Thu Van Tran, La dix-huitième place (The eighteenth place) brings together works that display what normally only exists in the background, barely apparent and already almost gone, from the anonymous people filling out each day’s lot of images and the continuous flow of security videos at borders, to paper scraps littering the artist’s studio and impermanent images on fragile supports or supports in tenuous balance.

Books and the formal, artistic transcription of publications with a very clearly oppressive, notably colonial connotation come up again and again in Thu Van Tran’s approach. The artist, for example, has just completed a free translation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Recounting a young English officer’s voyage up the Congo, the novel also relates an inner journey and experience that is given voice in particular through the author’s description of an increasingly threatening, impenetrable nature. Thu Van Tran’s project, which is scheduled to be shown at Art Basel in June, has a number of echoes and parallels in pieces being shown at the same time at the Villa du Parc.

In From Green to Orange, the artist has covered images of tropical vegetation with an orange coloring agent and obtained a rendering that is dense, sharp and strikingly pictorial. Linked to Conrad’s life through a series of digressions, the deadly volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée in 1903 is conjured up by the repetition of the same image that is more or less fixed on its paper support, displaying the gradual stages of its own iconic disappearance.

The physical impact of light, which leaches out, seeps into, damages and discolors images and materials, is palpable in most of the pieces on show, inviting a metaphorical reflection on the effects of time—the more fragile the original material the quicker the transformation of the supports. So it is with a number of rather delicate posters featuring tourist landscapes. They are already depicted through the lens of exotic locals; we see them now, their colors fading and disappearing the more they are exposed to sunlight. Or, finally, in a more abstract vein, we have the series of the artist’s residue-photograms made up of scraps of photosensitive paper exposed to light in the studio.

Text and curating : Garance Chabert
Photos : Mauve Serra