Tuan Andrew Nguyen
b. 1976, Saigon
Tuan Andrew Nguyen was born in 1976 in Saigon, Vietnam. In 1979, he and his family emigrated as refugees to the United States, and he grew up in California. Nguyen earned a BFA from the University of California, Irvine (1999) and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (2004). He is a member of the artist collective The Propeller Group (est. 2006) and a cofounder of the artist-run alternative space Sàn Art (est. 2007) in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). His work often deals with the cultural estrangement of expatriation and the experience of returning home to an unfamiliar place.
While still a student, Nguyen made the short black-and-white video The Two Tuans: A Civil Dispute (1998), in which he plays both of the figures immortalized in Eddie Adams’s 1968 photograph of the Saigon Police Chief shooting a Vietcong in the head. In Nguyen’s restaging, the artist’s head, recorded in live action, replaces those in the still image and the two trade “yo mama” barbs. Among the number of short documentaries he made during a 2003 visit to Vietnam, Better than Friends (2003) follows the daily life of a family running a small dog-butchery business in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen’s videos have appeared in the 18th Annual Singapore International Film Festival (2005), 4th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, Thailand (2005), and 55th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany (2009). He directed the feature film Jackfruit Thorn Kiss (2005), a romantic comedy that unfolds on a journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, which was an official selection at the 8th NHK Asian Film Festival, Tokyo (2007).
Nguyen has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Voz Alta Project, San Diego (2004), and Galerie Quynh, Ho Chi Minh City (2008). The latter, Quiet Shiny Words, centered on a collaboration with Vietnamese rapper Wowy SouthGanz and sound engineer Alan Hayslip. Nguyen also participated in the group exhibitions Mine, Lombard-Freid, New York (2003), and Eternal Flame: Imagining a Future at the End of the World, REDCAT, Los Angeles (2007), and was featured in the 5th Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia (2006–07). He collaborated on Dinh Q. Lê’s The Farmers and The Helicopters (2006), which was presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, for Projects 93 (2010) and acquired by the museum. Nguyen lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City.