Thu-Van Tran

Word as Matrix

Working across a range of forms and materials, Tran uses her own experience as a cultural outsider - a Vietnamese woman living in France - to explore physical and cultural displacement and history of colonialism, subjects that have become poignantly relevant in today's climate.

Matrix: A hollow mold, in metal or another material, serves to provide a given form to an object by compression, cutting, deformation or embossing. This first definition, purely technical, describes the molding process Thu Van Tran regularly practices. For the artist, an unsuccessfully made mold can always be render as a successful mold, insofar as the relation of it to the perfect matrix. While it supports the gravity of the materials, it assumes its own critical and emotional significance.

The matrix is not merely hollow and it contains other metaphysical realities: the center of the filiation and heredity; especially, as cultural model or moral molding which distorts and formats. And in the same manner that the concrete matrix is dedicated to disappear as soon as having pressed in its cavity a resembling imprint, the ideal matrix does not manifest in persistent form. In essence, the matrix leads to different hypotheses yet it's nature, always assumed as a never changing constant like in it's earlier state, untouched and pure: a speculation, in sum, with which it is necessary to be in conformity.

Puritanism, racism, ostracism, etc. – such are the fictional matrixes which justify the theories of absolute without mixture and that Thu Van Tran discerns the disorders. Her works evoke the fiction of purity and the reality of the mix – cross-breeding, transplant and parasite, isolationism and colonization – across different moments – Vietnam War, family history or Minimal Art in America. Face with the physical stain or a moral stain, one can draw many alternatives: to collaborate or resist, to repress or assume, to claim or deny. The artist is careful not to specify which of the two options – to darken or to lighten – is consider the more pure. By definition, one can always reverse from one state to another.

2011, text Matrix By Hélène Meisel, French art critic and curator.
English translation by Joseph Tang.