10 Chancery Lane Gallery presents Erasure, by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê and co-curated by Zoe Butt and the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation an interactive sculptural and video installation that draws on issues concerning refugees and asylum seekers.
The darkened gallery space will be dominated by a floor-to-ceiling moving image of an 18th-century ship beached on an isolated coastline slowly being consumed by flames. Beneath this image will be a scene of destruction where, amongst the debris of stone boulders and fragmented boats, tens of thousands of small black and white photographs rest. These images, self-portraits, family and passport photos, represent the thousands of refugees who fled Vietnam post 1975 a generation Dinh is a part and thus spent years buying such photographs in second-hand stores in the hope of finding his own family's archives.
During the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to pick up these photographs which will be removed one by one, scanned, catalogued, stored and uploaded to a purpose built website (www.erasurearchive.net) for people to browse through this collection of oan hon (lost souls) and perhaps find their own families.
Starting from the mid 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees sought asylum around the world. Hong Kong received its first wave of Vietnamese refugees on 4 May 1975 when a 3,743-strong refugee group was found arriving on board the Danish freighter Clara Mærsk. Although the Hong Kong Government declared them "illegal immigrants", this arrival marked the start of a wave of refugee migrations to Hong Kong and it soon became a "safe haven" choice. The BBC World Service spurred the decision by making known Hong Kong's 3-month grace period in which to make resettlement applications to a third country. Hong Kong was also known for its liberal policy of allowing landed refugees the right to work. The walls of Victoria Prison, Hong Kong's first prison, directly face 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. The compound became a transit and repatriation centre when Hong Kong was declared a port of first asylum for Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s. By 1980, more than 180,000 Vietnamese sought refugee rights in Hong Kong.
Born in Vietnam in 1968, Lê moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1979 after fighting erupted between
the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge near Ha Tien at the Cambodian border. As a refugee himself,
Lê was motivated to produce Erasure by the tragic sinking of an asylum seeker's boat off Christmas Island, Australia in December 2010. Erasure was initially commissioned and realized by the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) in Sydney in July 2011. Lê has chosen to exhibit Erasure now in Hong Kong due to it's historical relation as a Vietnamese asylum seeking country. Lê's practice challenges how our memories are recalled and how society archives the evidence of human suffering, elucidating commitment to the artistic process as a means of excavating history and the uncovering and revealing of alternate ideas of loss and redemption.
Dinh Q. Lê is considered one of Vietnam's most significant contemporary artists. His work has been
shown at MoMA, New York (2011), the Singapore Biennale, Singapore (2008); Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington(2007); Arko Art Center, Seoul, Korea (2007); The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Texas (2007); MoMA, PS1, Long Island City, New York (2006); Asia-Pacific Triennial Of Contemporary Art, Queensland ArtGallery/Gallery of Modern Art (2006); Asia Society, New York, New York (2005); Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2003); The RISD Museum of Art, Providence, Rhode Island (2002); and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California (2001). His work will be featured in Documenta 13, this June. Erasure is a commission and a curatorial collaboration between SCAF and Zoe Butt (co-director and curator, San Art, Ho Chi Minh City). This is Lê's third solo exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.