Dinh Q. Le
2010 Prince Claus Laureate Visual artist Dinh Q. Lê (1968, Ha-Tien) is the co-founder of two transformative institutions that are opening up possibilities for Vietnamese artists. The Vietnam Foundation for the Arts is a Los Angeles-based centre that counteracts isolation through exchanges and collaboration. And Sàn Art, the first independent not-for-profit art space in Ho Chi Minh City, runs local and international exhibitions, residencies, projects, a reading room, discussions, lectures and networking opportunities. Brought up in Vietnam during the American war, Dinh Q. Lê moved to the USA aged 10. Surrounded by Hollywood and western media interpretations of his homeland, he studied and began his art practice. He devised an innovative technique based on Vietnamese craft heritage, literally and metaphorically weaving images and fragments into complex combinations of different traditions, histories and modernities. These ‘surreal memory landscapes’ dramatically portray the schizophrenic realities of exiles and migrants. Returning to Vietnam, aged 25, he continues his explorations of contradictory realities. The Farmers and the Helicopter (2006), a documentary video on passionate local desire to recreate the iconic destroyer of Vietnam’s traumatic past, contrasts with South China Sea Pishkun (2009), a 3D animation of the mass crashing of helicopters into the South China Sea during America’s panicked retreat from Saigon – the Vietnamese view still widely unknown. Other works examine genocide, consumerist glitz in disadvantaged places, and the promotion of Vietnam as idyllic paradise for tourists. The Prince Claus Award honours Dinh Q. Lê for his strong creative work exploring different constructions of reality, for providing inspiration and practical opportunities for young artists, and for advancing free thought and contemporary visual expression in a context of indifference and hostility.