Darkroom is the premiere of Hoang Tran Nguyen’s new single-channel video work, October (After Đặng Nhật Minh). The installation features an edited and processed version of a feature film Nguyen recently discovered from Vietnam. As Nguyen remarks, ‘Post 1975, the country was reunited but living in poverty, leaving limited resources for film-making. Furthermore, cultural production became largely the domain of propaganda. When I first watched director Đặng Nhật Minh’s When the tenth month comes’ (1988) on DVD I experienced a time shift. The film tells the story of a war-widow who struggles to conceal the fate of her dead husband to his family and the village. Although the black and white film was made in the late 1980s, it seemed like it could have come from the ‘50s.’
For October (After Đặng Nhật Minh), Nguyen has re-processed this original footage using dated video technologies to obtain a ‘muted’ look, similar to the aesthetic of old VHS tapes. All scenes with dialogue and accompanying music have been erased, leaving a soundtrack comprised mostly of film ‘dust’. The duration of the work is 1 hour 25 minutes, the length of the original film. There are long periods of darkness throughout. The exhibition title Darkroom alludes to the installation of work in a ‘black box’ context, and to a now ‘outmoded’ workspace for the chemical processing of photographs. The generational shift that emerges between subject and audience is accentuated by the technological apparatus that enables their representation.
Hoang Tran Nguyen works across the spectrum of photography, video, projections and events. He has participated in numerous arts festivals and exhibitions including the Big West Festival, Next Wave, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Seoul Fringe Festival, Melbourne City Library, Bilo Artspace, and FauxPho studios, Footscray.