Tuan Andrew Nguyen: The Boat People
August 6, 2021 — January 2, 2022
Experience the work of Vietnamese artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen with his 2020 film, The Boat People in the Chrysler Museum’s video space, The Box, and one of his sculptures on view in the Museum’s Asian galleries.
The Boat People is set in an unspecified post-apocalyptic future at the precarious edge of humanity’s possible extinction. The film follows the band of five children led by a strong-willed and resourceful little girl. Calling themselves The Boat People, they travel the seas and collect the stories of a world they never knew through objects that survived over time. The film opens with the children wading ashore a deserted, sun-dappled island wearing marvelous steampunk headdresses. Accompanied by a captivating soundtrack, the children encounter many objects, static and mythical, whose history recalls the times past.
Nguyen created the film during a residency at Bellas Artes Projects in Bataan, Philippines. The film showcases a series of objects found in and around that area and anchors itself to the multiple layers of history in wars, migration and perseverance contained in the land itself. Nguyen is interested in objects that have survived through time—objects that humanity has created and, in turn, inherited. His work investigates both the stories objects contain and our memories of the objects themselves. The film was shot at various landmarks in the area, including the Boat People Museum, a site that preserves archival records of the refugee camp at the Philippines Refugee Processing Center (PRPC). The museum has the original boat that crashed onto the shores of Morong in 1981, carrying eleven of the first Vietnamese refugees to arrive in Bataan.
Nguyen’s sculpture, A God, A Casket, A Crossing, will be on view in the Asian galleries as part of the Chrysler Museum’s Double Takes, pairings or placements of objects encouraging critical engagement with a concept or theme. The sculpture relates to the history of Bataan as the site of the PRPC, which processed roughly 300,000 Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees who fled their countries after the Vietnam War. A large number of these refugees landed on the coast of Bataan by boat. A God, A Casket, A Crossing is a miniature replica of one of the original vessels that were kept on the grounds of the PRPC.
This exhibition is organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art.