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« December 2008 | Main | February 2009 »

January 29, 2009

Phuong M. Do's Vietnam Re-imagined

Weisman Art Museum:
Phuong, your self-portraits from Vietnam featured in Changing Identity represent complicated relationships: between you and your family, Americans and Vietnamese, and between viewers and subjects. We look forward to hearing you talk more about this series and about projects you have developed since. Could you give us a preview?

Phuong M. Do:
The self portrait work was a seven year process. While a sense of disconnect from my relatives doesn’t really go away, I have come to accept it for what it is...and that I will probably not ever feel familiar with them or they with me. Having known something about my family history—though fragmented—provides me context so that I can form own sense of self.


The "abandoned photographs" project [involving secondhand shop image collections] is an extension of the self portrait work in that the personal family photographs are lost and disconnected from their “family.�? They also provide visual snippets of narratives about peoples’ lives in a time and place that are part of the larger historical and cultural puzzle for not only Vietnamese in diasporas but for those living in Vietnam. They are also displaced by war. I haven’t had much time to work on the images but I have been thinking about ways to make the images accessible to people and perhaps become identified. I think the webspace is a great place for that but I need to conceptualize how they will be presented and if they are identified by their owners, how to integrate that into the narrative.


I brought some of my new, lacquered photographs to show at Sunday’s talk because the projected image does not really show the physical sensibility of the work. The lacquer work is more conceptual in terms of my feelings about a sense of place and space. It also integrates a process that is specific to Vietnam. Lacquer’s preservation qualities...can be likened to the photographic medium and process.


Weisman Art Museum:
Thank you, Phuong, we look forward to seeing and hearing more this Sunday at 2pm in your dialogue with Changing Identity curator Nora Taylor!

January 13, 2009

2008 Year in Review: The Big Picture for Minnesota Arts

Weisman curator Diane Mullin contributed the following to the 2008 Year in Review feature for <a href="> target="_blank">


Northern Lights: This “roving, collaborative, interactive media-oriented, arts agency from the Twin Cities for the world” was founded by our own media arts impresario, Steve Dietz. This new style arts enterprise has already given us the city-wide “Unconvention�?—a collaborative effort to produce and support art in response to the RNC in St. Paul and by extension the state of our nation’s political theater/reality; Artists on the Verge—a new fellowship and mentoring program that supports Minnesota artists working experimentally at the intersection of art and technology, with a focus on practices that are social, collaborative and/or participatory; and what may be the most interesting blog on art and the public sphere out there. As Dietz noted about the Artist on the Verge program in the Daily Planet profile: “There are some exceptional artists here and there are some strong programs at MCAD and the U.; but there isn’t the strong environment of support you get in San Fran and New York.�? Bravo to Dietz and to Jerome, AOV partner and funder for helping our city to catch up with its artists.

West Bank Shop: Taking its name from an already existing sign in a storefront window on Cedar Avenue, West Bank Shop is a collective of 13 artists (Beth Jeffries Barnes, T.J. Barnes, Rebekah Champ, Adrian Freeman, Travis Freeman, Katinka Galanos, Jason Gaspar, Lauren Herzak-Bauman, Sam Hoolihan, Lisa McGrath, Peter McLarnan, Peter Haakon Thompson, and Brennan Vance)—many students or alums of the University of Minnesota—who temporarily took over a former tobacco shop on the West Bank to present art work and events that pushed the boundaries of what art is and how it can be presented and interpreted. The plan was to utilize the shop space as a place for art to happen. In a statement—a manifesto of sorts—the group declared; “We conceive our project as an engaged, fluid, critical and playful endeavor. A project that is open and experimental, collaborative and process-based, conceptual, and social.�? The project existed as scheduled for 50 days and included events such as an artists hair styling, an open record spin so that people who no longer have turn tables but can’t trash their vinyl could sonically revisit their albums, and my favorites—the baking and sharing of bread with artist Travis Freeman and Peter Haakon Thompson’s “Teach me Your Language,�? where the artist opened the door to the linguistically diverse community of the West Bank asking to be taught its many tongues—a brilliant reversal of the traditional museum conceit that it educates. Though the original space is now more permanently occupied by another entity, the collective is seeking new digs. Let’s hope they find some and give us another bright spot in 2009.

All in all, these beacons of experimental social and public practice seem like a good turn for the Twin Cities. A welcome respite from the building campaigns of the last decade, it is hopeful that such entities can—even must—exist here.

—Diane Mullin, Associate Curator, Weisman Art Museum

January 7, 2009

Now, bring me that horizon

Well, this is it, my final post. I’d like to thank the staff at the Weisman Art Museum for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with the net-surfing public.

As the only artist on the museum’s inaugural blog team, I’m sure the folks at the Weisman were hoping I’d write a bit more about art. However, my allotted blog-time encompassed the ground-breaking 2008 election, the national economic melt-down, the Franken-Coleman senate recount, and the annual bitter-sweetness of the holiday season. My heart was in the street, not the studio.

What’s happening now in our country and communities is a paradigm shift of monumental proportions. This shift will bring changes and challenges that require our care and attention. No armchair quarterbacking. We’ve got to get in the game. Which underscores the premise I’d planned to make when I accepted this blogging gig last summer: that the personal is political, and that life – the personal – can be a work of art when approached with intention and creativity.

Though I am primarily an interdisciplinary and public artist, I also paint. Painting in the studio is, for me, a form of visual journaling and highly meditative. For ten years I have worked on various bodies of work but most of my paintings share one thing in common: the ongoing study of the horizon line as visual metaphor.

Night Seeds, Camille J. Gage, 2003

Readers of my earlier posts know that I lost my mother unexpectedly 27 years ago. This early loss inspired an ongoing interest in the dualities that form the core of our existence: life and death, day and night, good and evil, darkness and light. It is the tension, the shimmering place where these realities intersect, that compels me. Such sweet mystery!

The Uruguayan writer and social philosopher, Eduardo Galeano, once commented that art-making is our attempt to make sense of the inevitability of death and that its pursuit must never be reduced to a specialized practice exercised only by a handful of ‘experts.’ Like Thoreau, Galeano believed that we all have the ability – and perhaps even the responsibility – to make art of our very lives. It’s a utopian vision, but then what IS so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?

“Utopia lies at the horizon.
When I draw nearer by two steps,
it retreats two steps.
If I proceed ten steps forward, it
swiftly slips ten steps ahead.
No matter how far I go, I can never reach it.
What, then, is the purpose of utopia?
It is to cause us to advance.?

Eduardo Galeano

Happy new year to all,


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