Filmed in Death Valley, CA, December 2019, One Day I’ll Have Vietnam Again comprises poetry recited over a filmed sequence of two women traversing the desert in traditional Vietnamese dress before cracking open a durian. I wrote the script for this performance, wrote and recited the poem, and acted in the film as well as in subsequent live performances. Collaborators edited and shot the footage.
One Day I’ll Have Vietnam Again brings together my varied practices a cross-genre artist. I use performance art to bridge my work in prose, poetry, and visual art, media that too often remain divorced from each other. With this specific piece, I was interested in notions of intermedial translation – how poetry could function as narrative voiceover, for instance – as well as the question of cultural translation. The piece has its roots in the Vietnamese diasporic experience; the experience of inhabiting landscapes of dissonance, of learning to make home wherever one finds oneself. It is the first of a series of works exploring the fertility and dearth of lives lived in diaspora. By using drone footage, I was interested in establishing a tension between the high-technology of contemporary America and the diminution of the figures who inhabit it. These two diminutive women traverse a landscape that excludes them in its scale as well as its ecology, setting them the daunting task of finding a way to inhabit it. The solution they arrive at is an emotional one, eliding questions of practicality to arrive at an affective register. The acting of consuming durian provides the emotional core of this piece. Fruit performs a homing function; it gives those of us in diaspora a sense of home, however precarious. In live performances of this piece, I have had the audience participate in their own durian-splitting – inviting them to enter the body of the fruit with their own hands, as the lost women in the film do.
This piece is one among several performance-investigations into the lives of Vietnamese-Americans in Nevada; a sonic, visual, and tactile exploration of its zones of yearning, hunger, diminution, and love.