Statement Art Basel
w/ Meessen De Clercq
This appraoch is a laid-back translation made without the wish to reproduce the original text word by word. Instead of, I wanted it to be a search about what the lack of comprehension of a language and subjective writing can produce. I was also looking at the collision od two colonial histories. Joseph Conrad is venturing into the Belgian Congo whereas I originate from Vietnam, a former French colony. I do not know yest whether this is a fortunate collision or not. Conrad does not mention at any time either Congo or Belgium, he moves the company for which the main character navigates as French, and that makes sense for me. And for my part, I transposed all the past times of the narrative into present.
The project started when I was travelling in an English speaking country; I began to read in English, the original language of Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. And I didn't not understand anything. Naturally, driven by my determination to understand, I started translatting. Can this trivial mechanism, that is mine alone at the moment when I am reading, not be considered as writing in itself? How can translating be as powerfull as writing? It seems to me that the question has no meaning. In fact, I am writing when I translate, stripped ans without any rules constraining grammatical usage. My approach seems free of restrictions, but in reality it is difficult and laborious, as I try to unravel the original in the most intuitive way possible in order to re-write it.
Where is Conrad looking from? Where are we looking from when we show womething? In exploration as in translation there is the metaphor of the quest. Like Marlow, the main character, I continue to move on, and it is important for me to fathom out the man that is Kurtz, his madness and lucidity, the paradox of his soul. And in the process of creation there is sometimes a moment where we feel like moving forward blind, sinking with difficulties. And then from the white a thing that is not and the one that becomes reality, from the white to the dark, from good to evil or rather from moral position to doubt, there is a multitude of nuances and greys.
Thu Van Tran, 2013.
Le projet de Thu Van Tran, présenté à Statement ArtBasel, se compose de deux ensembles d'oeuvres qui font appel à la lumière et l'écriture dans le processus de résurgence de la mémoire. Le premier corpus regroupé sous le nom Nos Lumières est fondé sur l'expérience lumineuse. Il débute par la fabrication d'une machine à lumière laquelle, au hasard d'une traversée, se confronte au paysage et à l'histoire récente de l'Europe de l'Est, plus précisément de l'Ex-Yougoslavie. Un road movie lors duquel des moments d'éclairement, dérisoires, fugaces mais tout aussi incisifs, sont menés et filmés sur pellicule Super 8. Le second ensemble d'oeuvres renvoie au livre Heart of Darkness de Joseph Conrad pour lequel l'artiste entreprend une traduction française subjective. Celle-ci dépourvue de volonté de rendre mot pour mot le texte d'origine, recherche ce que le manque de compréhension d'une langue peut produire, dans l'écriture. Une transcription à l'intérieur de laquelle est possible la collision de deux histoires coloniales – Conrad dérive dans le Congo Belge alors que l'artiste est originaire du Vietnam, ancienne colonie française. La traduction se présentera formellement de manière à permettre à la couleur noire de gagner en présence. Ainsi l'oeuvre intitulée Au plus profond du noir, sera la présentation des soixante feuillets du manuscrit, imprimé sur un papier imbibé d'un pourcentage d'encre noir supplémentaire à chaque page. Le texte traduit sera également publié sous la forme d'un livre mis à disposition du public (2000 exemplaires). À cette traduction s'ajoute une série de photogrammes bleus, de grands formats, qui brûlés par la lumière laissent apparaître des passages du texte où la lumière, justement, gagnée par l'obscurité du récit ne peut demeurer pérenne. C'est aussi la lumière réelle qui de façon irréversible insole le support photosensible jusqu'à faire disparaître le texte.
For Statements artist Thu Van Tran (1979, Ho Chi Minh City) offers a metaphorical reflection about collective memory and the principle of recollection. An artist born in Vietnam and exiled in France, Tran questions recent European history and links it implicitly to the torments of the Belgian colonisation of the Congo.
Fed by her own uprooting, this young artist has dreamed up a project of great maturity that casts light on a dark collective past. Her idea associates an exploration of symbolic places in the former Yugoslavia with a corpus of works with their roots in the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, an instructive account of the effects of colonisation in the Belgian Congo. One could compare the exploration by Tran in lands marked by the folly of men to the progress of Marlow, Conrad's main character, along the Congo River. In both cases, there is apparent progress that suggests a moment of clarity, understanding and redemption, whereas the journey is only heading towards total darkness, a blur and disorientation, whether real or symbolic.
The project consists of two groups of works with a common theme; on the one hand, the film and documents relating to a crossing of the former Yugoslavia, and on the other hand works evoking Heart of Darkness.
During her journey, in Bosnia (from Tuzla to Neum), Thu Van Tran filmed historical sites and landscapes lit by means of a transportable light machine (called the Cyclops, consisting of a powerful halogen spotlight, a battery). She filmed by stealth, in broad daylight as well as at night, showing moments rather than descriptive shots. Her approach may seem naive or even absurd since in broad daylight, she is lighting what we can already see plainly, and in a vain attempt, she tries to illuminate the darkness of night. Her desire is to enter the thickness of the night, but with the idea of "making it visible".
To accompany this work, Thu Van Tran shows under glass and placed on discreet shelves made from hevea wood, sixty sheets ranging in colour in a scale from white to the darkest black. Transcribed texts on these pages, initially perfectly legible, then more and more difficult to decipher, are the full translation into French of Heart of Darkness by the artist herself. She understands English without speaking it perfectly. She only used an English-English dictionary to achieve her purpose. So she puts herself in the position of a blind person groping to find her way around, to give meaning to her research. Translation is a metaphor for a process of discovery, exploration and difficulties overcome. To complement this project, Tran's translation is published in paperback in a print run of several thousand copies intended for the public during the fair. The books are stacked, giving them a sculptural appearance, and are available free of charge.
Finally, under the title We live in the flicker, Tran displays photographs based on photograms reproducing excerpts from the book in English concerning light and darkness (“The white patch had become a place of darkness”...). The blue pigments of the initial photograms are not fixed and therefore disappear over time. Slowly but inexorably. We could see a moment of light that returns to the darkness.
By Meessen De Clercq.