Mai Nguyễn-Long lives and works in Bulli, Dharawal Country, AU

 

Born in Tasmania to a Vietnamese father and an Australian mother, Mai Nguyễn-Long grew up in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines; as an adult she has lived in Australia, China, and Vietnam. This trajectory of migration during times of social and political upheaval has allowed Nguyễn-Long to make sense of her identity, history, and cultural heritage.

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Mai Nguyễn-Long, Specimen, 2014, used glass household jars, found objects, organic matter, dimensions variable © Mai Nguyễn-Long, photo: Felicity Jenkins

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Vigit (Vomit Girl), 2022, from the series The Vomit Girl Project: Vigit-Worana-Doba, 2017–22, glazed clay, 48 x 16 x 15 cm © Mai Nguyễn-Long, photo: Bernie Fischer

For the 12th Berlin Biennale, the artist presents two bodies of work: Vomit Girl (Berlin Cluster) and Specimen (Permeate) (both 2022). With Vomit Girl (Berlin Cluster), Nguyễn-Long grapples with the historical trauma of the Vietnam War and the mental division it created between North and South, both of which form part of the artist’s hybrid identity. For Nguyễn-Long, “the recurring vomit motif came from a sense of being erased: having no identity, language, or voice to speak with. There is overwhelming sadness and confusion about how to bridge the dense chasm of exclusionary narratives, misunderstandings, discrimination, rejection, and shame.” Inspired by the rustic aesthetics (mộc mạc) and playfulness of traditional Vietnamese đình architecture, Nguyễn-Long has experimented with clay to create the various manifestations of Vomit Girl (Berlin Cluster). This work is a powerful symbol of resistance as well as a ritual summoning of spirits from the beyond. Specimen (Permeate) eerily recalls images of fetuses and organs labeled and stored in glass hospital jars. Both works evoke the Agent Orange disaster that continues to haunt thousands of lives. Nguyễn-Long’s works are a potent reminder of this horrific crime that was nearly forgotten even in Vietnam, where the fast pace of capitalism has eclipsed historical memory.

Đỗ Tường Linh

Exhibitions

The Vomit Girl Project: Vigit-Worana-Doba, 2022, TEAM Gallery, University of Wollongong, Wollongong (AU) (solo)

Contemporary Acquisitions From The Collection, 2015, Wollongong Art Gallery, Wollongong (AU)

Neat Severances, 2014, NG Art Gallery, Woollahra (AU) (solo)

Beyogmos, 2014, Wollongong Art Gallery, Wollongong (AU) (solo)

Mai Nguyễn-Long, 2011, Slot, Sydney (AU) (solo)