Neither…Nor | Khánh H. Lê

Artist Statement:

Even though I identify myself as a Vietnamese-born American, I still do not know what it means. There is a discord within my own origin due to the fact that I was born too late. By the time I have arrived, Vietnam has already claimed its independence. Being born too late effectively removed me from that point in history. Growing up in the United States, I learned to adapt my identity living between two cultures. Identity is the central theme of my works, and I examine it through the bits and pieces of my personal memory and the collective history from the two cultures. Within the series of Neither…Nor, I revisited these historic images from the war that made me feel shameful: I altered or took them out of their original positions.

What happens to their identities and their contents once they become removed? I slowly placed them in contrast with the images I collected from Better Homes and Gardens, Detail (men’s fashion magazine), GQ (men’s fashion magazine), and Architectural Digest magazines I found at the grocery. I began to place figures from historical images and film throughout all of the living spaces that I have desired since childhood.

Trapped between present and past, there was a sense of helplessness when producing this body of work. The things that link these two streams of time together were the images from my own personal family. I have slowly replaced the historical war icons with members and scenes of my own family as well as the extended family living in Vietnam. Rather then blurring the border, I color coded it as point of reference of the clash of the Vietnamese-ness and the American-ness.