During my tenure at IIAS, I aim to revise my book for publication. The manuscript is entitled “Return Engagement: Contemporary Art’s Traumas of Modernity and History in Diasporic Sài Gòn and Phnom Penh.”
The project examines modernity, popular culture and trauma in contemporary art in Asian America and Southeast Asia, with a focus on Việt Nam and Cambodia—two countries linked historically and regionally with each other and the United States. In addressing the dearth of art criticism on artists from the region, I argue that traumas such as military engagement and modernization return as thematic objects of desire and desired art objects on international art markets, however contested. I highlight artists tied to Phnom Penh and Sài Gòn, and challenge “diasporic” and “local” categorizations.
Besides considering how artists deal with issues of marketing and location, I also question how artists of Southeast Asian descent are often expected to address the twin traumas of history and modernity. The breadth of visual culture in Asian America and Southeast Asia is explored through a range of visual art as well as documentary and experimental films. Artistic framing, critical reception and varying audiences and contexts are analyzed in my project.