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Vietnamese artist crosses the Pacific Ocean to reach around the world

Vietnamese multimedia artist Tran Nguyen Uu Dam will embark on a performance trip by cargo boat from Vietnam to the US at the end of this month. 


Vietnamese artist Tran Nguyen Uu Dam will embark on his 30-day voyage across the Pacific Ocean by cargo boat from Vietnam at the end of this month. — Photo Uudam Tran Nguyen's Facebook


The 30-day journey and performance along the coast of California will complete one small segment of the artist’s long-term, multi-phase work entitled Time Boomerang.

Launched by the artist in 2013, the project includes performances, installations and other forms of interactive art in various countries around the world.

The artist’s journey will be sponsored by the Orange County Museum of Art in the US and other organisations in addition to his own budget. He also used crowdfunding.

As part of Time Boomerang, Dam is travelling to oceans on five continents to deposit bronze models of his fingertips into the water.

Dam said he was inspired by stories about the East Sea. His original idea was to launch bronze fingertips to the north, south, west and east of Vietnam to symbolise ownership, control and protection. Since then he has expanded his idea to the whole globe, reflecting his thoughts about colonialism and imperialism.

“I cast my hand, fingers fully outstretched in my childhood measuring gesture, in metal," the artists wrote on Facebook. "When it was completed, I cut off the five fingertips and moved them away from the hand. Over a period of several years, I will place the fingertips in oceans in five different continents, symbolically extending my ability to measure (or mark new territories).”

In September 2015, Dam launched the first bronze fingertip into the waters of the Gulf of Bothnia in Europe. Two months later, he placed the second into the waters of Moreton Bay in Australia. California was chosen as the next destination for this August. The performance will complete the third part of Time Boomerang's second of eight phases.

The first phase was entitled "The Real Distances of Things Being Measured". Phase two is called "The New Conqueror with a Good Passport".

Dam said that although the project now extends to the rest of the world, its idea originated from Vietnam.

“I left Vietnam at the age of 23 but my foundation is still based there," he said. "I decided to go back to Vietnam because I can feel the special emotions there, as artists tend to follow their emotions."

“I do not dare to say that I represent Vietnam’s contemporary arts,” he added. “I’m just a tiny segment of Vietnam’s contemporary arts which have been created by many talented artists. However, on stepping out of Vietnam, I have always been aware that international audiences' views of the country and its contemporary arts will be reflected through my works of arts.”

Born in Kontum Province in central Vietnam, Dam was trained as a sculptor at Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts University. He then received a Bachelor's of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master's of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Dam combines video, performance, photography, sculpture and new media, and his works have been exhibited internationally in such destinations as the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane and the Asia Society in New York.



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