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Looking for an Identity

Artist Blog by Vân-Nhi Nguyễn

When talking about the project As You Grow Older, I believe it's important to mention that, despite being born and raised in Vietnam, I have spent a significant portion of my life living abroad. During this time, I found myself having to answer the question of what it means to be Vietnamese. Often when faced with this question, from myself and others, I find myself knowing about Vietnam only through the “Made in Vietnam” tag on my shoes or through the monolithic perception of Vietnam from our wars. From there, it became important to me that I start looking into what it means for me to be a Vietnamese person. And this first step was, like for many others, to go through my own family photo albums. As I was flipping through the pages of the album, it dawned upon me that this album, seemingly so beautiful and nostalgic, is an idealistic curation of our beliefs passed down from generation to generation. It is also binary - man and woman, husband, and wife, one son, maybe a daughter. As a person who has lived so isolated from this cultural belief, this burden of history, much like many of my peers, I find myself looking for my own definition, and my own idea of what it means to be a young person, living in a society where rapid changes are happening, while past beliefs are still anticipated or required.

I find my interest in reconstructing domestic places with my friends and peers, where domesticity becomes a mirror of many people's internal beliefs and choices. In this context, the subject's pose is a reference to mainstream arts and photography, a subject we who belong to the Vietnamese diaspora often encounter. However, we also often find it challenging to delve into our own photography practice or explore Vietnamese art. This constant act of referencing coupling with this domestic city, is a way for me to look for meaning in my identity as a young Vietnamese person.

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