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Ling U

Ling U

Ling U

Ling U

Ling U

Contemporary Asia-Pacific Visual Cultures
Joint Webinar Series


This seminar is co-hosted by the Department of Visual Studies, Lingnan University and the Judith Neilson Chair in Contemporary Art, University of New South Wales as part of the UNSW Art, Design and Architecture Contemporary Asia-Pacific Visual Cultures Webinar Series.

The Purpose of Parahistory in Late Socialist Vietnam

Pamela Nguyen Corey
Assistant Professor in Arts and Media Studies, Fulbright University Vietnam

Date : 21 April 2022 (Thursday)
Time : 3:00 - 4:30 pm HKT
Venue : Online via Zoom
Language : English


Pamela Nguyen Corey researches and teaches modern and contemporary art history, focusing on Southeast Asia within broader transnational Asian and global contexts. She received her BA (Studio Art) from the University of California, Irvine, and her Ph.D. (History of Art and Visual Studies) from Cornell University. Prior to joining Fulbright University Vietnam in January 2021, she was an assistant professor in the History of Art & Archaeology department at SOAS University of London. Pamela has published in numerous academic journals, exhibition catalogs, and platforms for artistic and cultural commentary. Her first book, The City in Time: Contemporary Art and Urban Form in Vietnam and Cambodia (University of Washington Press, 2021), was the recipient of a Millard Meiss Publication Fund from the College Art Association. In arguing for a renewed understanding of the spatial formation of contemporary art practices in Vietnam and Cambodia, the book centers artists’ engagement with urban forms and temporalities, and complicates prevalent interpretations of postwar artistic subjectivity. Pamela co-edited “Voice as Form,” a special issue of Oxford Art Journal (2020), which introduces material from her new research into the use of voice and sound in contemporary artworks from Southeast Asia and its diasporas. She continues to carry out research on global modernism, contemporary art in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and decolonizing art history debates in various writing and editorial projects.


Subsistence crises have recurred throughout Vietnamese modern history, notably in the contexts of French colonialism, Japanese occupation, and postcolonial and postwar communist economic centralization and agricultural collectivization. The Great Famine of 1944-1945 - whose causes have been attributed to the convergence of natural disaster, French and Japanese mismanagement, and American bombing – has been significantly commemorated within Vietnamese revolutionary history. Other, more recent, episodes of hunger have been creatively remembered through a range of official and unofficial forms, such as film, literature, and museum exhibitions, even if such episodes occupy a more uneasy place within the sphere of state culpability and thus national historiography. Nonetheless, there is clearly a rich body of artistic expression and remembrance of the crisis of hunger in Vietnamese history.

Contemporary artists have continued to explore the topic of hunger and the memory of subsistence crisis in Vietnam, with two works standing out for their depiction of such events as transtemporal, transnational crystallizations of history. Tiffany Chung’s chronicles of a soundless dream (2011) blurs the 1918 kome sodo (rice riots) in Japan with the queuing for food rations during the Subsidy Period (1975-1986) in Vietnam through a visceral, and lyrical, theatrical dance performance. Phan Thao Nguyen’s Mute Grain (2019) serves as a poetic, dreamlike meandering of fragments of images, materials, and oral narratives across moving image, silk painting, and installation. Quotations from Bengali and Japanese literature dislocate the specificity of the work’s historical reference to the 1944-1945 Great Famine in Vietnam through narration set in other conditions of starvation and geopolitical crisis.