Tra My Nguyen (b. 1992 Vietnam) is a visual artist and designer, working within sculpture, textile and moving images. Her practice draws upon Vietnamese diaspora perspectives for decontextualizing material culture within the tangling nexus of hyper-globalization. Deploying speculative narratives, Nguyen explores the tensions of gender, labor, migration and technology within the current neoliberal order. 

Dress code. Are you playing fashion?

Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, 2021

UV-protection clothing, silicone, textile hardener; boots, ceramics, metall, phone, video

Credits: Ceramics in collaboration with Jannis Esselsbrügge

I’d blush if I could

Dada Post, Berlin, 2020

metall, screens, videos, digitale- prints, acrylic Nails

The sculptural video installation explores the tensions involved in the post-human feminised cyborg: what ‘labour’ produces post-human technologies, and what discrepancies arise from cyborgian future speculation. In particular my research focuses on the gendering and orientalising of machines, from an Asian diasporic perspective.

In Donna Haraway’s 1985 A Cyborg Manifesto she states ‘The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation’. Nearly 30 years after her publication, this assemblage of the post-human subject is still intertwined in today’s power disparity. Moreover, its ‘multiglobal, intersubjective, institutional components’ are intentionally hidden (Hilary Bergen, 2016). For example following the discovery of silicon semiconductors in the 1970s, the modern computer industry which carried cybernetics into homes around the world was founded. This field of production proliferated in the 1980s Silicon Valley, with migrant women being the predominant workers within this extremely toxic field.

The production of technology bears histories of women and migrant labour. This system of labour exploitation signifies the irony of today’s society: the exploited bodies producing the new cyborg assemblage are the ones being rendered invisible in the final product, and ultimately these bodies are being automated away by machines.

‘I’d Blush if I Could’, 2017, 210 cm x 147 cm x 40 cm, metall, screens, videos, digitale- prints, acrylic Nails

using one’s feet has become an option of last resort

University of the Arts, Positions Art Fair Berlin, 2020

‚Speculative‘ fashion collection / ‚wearables‘ consisting of eight looks. Sun protective garments, silicone, mesh polyester, digital prints, metal, ceramic Video (4:51 min) shot in Hanoi (VN) und Berlin (DE)

Credits: Ozan Sanal (videography), Annie Mackinnon (score), Melanie Glück (photography)

Motorbike culture has become the symbol of contemporary Vietnam and marks the origin of Vietnam‘s capitalist transition since the mid-1980s. Focusing on discourses of consumerism, mobility, gender and class identity, the project examines the emerging female street style of motorcyclists in Vietnam, dubbed as ‚Street Ninja‘. By deconstructing and assembling street ninjas‘ UV protective clothing into ‚wearable sculptures,‘ the project proposes an emancipatory strategy: the ‚Street Ninjas‘ become protagonists of their marks and reinterpret their discriminatory experiences. Moreover, the protagonists have an emancipatory potential in reconfiguring the meaning of mobility and women‘s experience by mixing boundaries of the female body with commodities (e.g. motorcycle, fashion). In this way, they appropriate (public) spaces while applying methods of ‚feminist collectivity‘. The project consists of textile sculptures, which is an assemblage of ‚wearables‘, and a video installation showing two projections of a feminist protagonist and a video about utopian Vietnam.

Universität der Künste, Hardenbergstr., 2019

Positions Art Fair, Flughafen Tempelhof, 2020

‚Bodies #2‘, 2019, 198 x 55 x 55 cm, textile silicone, mesh fabric, eyelets, metal

In actu. In potentia.

fffriedrich, Frankfurt a. M., 2019

‘XLoca Bag #2‘ vegan leather, polyester, metal

On the 23rd of April 2019, IN ACTU. transformed the corridors of the Städelschule into a performed interpretation of the runway. Each artist conceived a series of new works that enrobed the moving body. Individual bodies and their personalities served as nuanced sites of action. Through (often painstaking) process driven practices, artists explored non-traditional mediums on an overwhelmingly non-neutral canvas. The body itself was rendered a living, breathing thinking medium to which works were inextricably bonded. Thus, IN ACTU. was an evanescent experiment into the physical body as dynamic medium in excess of corporeal representation and fixed forms of art and fashion.

Here and now, IN POTENTIA. sheds the body and motion. A selection of works from and inspired by IN ACTU. is presented in an exhibition context. Once ephemerally shown in relation to the moving body, the works form a populous scene much like the culmination of IN ACTU. in the Lichthalle of the Städelschule- sans bodies. The transition to the body-less format sees the exhibition traverses both the immaterial realm of the body and that of the material object. Static material comparison unveils the enrobed absent body in all its imagined potential.

The body, clothing, and handcraft all simultaneously function as both a medium and a process. Absolving fashion, textiles, and clothing from the periphery in art emancipates a medium with a singular ability to reflect on the means of its own production as well as the context of its creation. By its very nature, the time and intricacy required in hand-production for a body by a body moves focus away from the end result to a process laced with significance for the human in art.

Curation & Text: Sarah Crowe and Alke Heykes

‘XLoca Bag #2‘, 2017, 100 cm x 80 cm x 40 cm; vegan leather, polyester, metal

Motorbike sunbathes on a patch of plastic turf

Human Resources, Los Angeles, 2018

A Motorbike Sunbathes on a Patch of Plastic Turf is a series of videos, installations and sculptures by Berlin-based Tra My Nguyen. Drawing upon family and the artists’ Vietnamese background, the works focus upon identifying connections, disconnections and nostalgia surrounding commodities within the tangling nexus of hyper-consumption.

Tra My Nguyen’s work examines motorbike culture in Vietnam, examining it from both a Western and local standpoint. Stemming from childhood memories riding in Vietnam, to her mother selling her motorbike to move to Germany, the motorbike becomes symbolic of freedom to many locals. This is in contrast to Western tourist’s fascination and fetishisation, where the image of an overstocked Vietnamese Motorbike is perceived almost as novelty.

Text: Annie Mackinnon

’Untitled’, 2018, motorbike, textile, video

‘Wheeling City and River’, 2018, video (3:34 min); ‘Unititled’, 2019, video (50:15 min); ‘Untitled’, 2018, digitale prints, plane