Trinh T. Minh-ha. Films. is the first institutional exhibition of filmmaker, music composer, writer, anthropologist, feminist and postcolonial theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha in Asia, presented in an exhibition format. Five of her films—Forgetting Vietnam (2015), Night Passage (2004), The Fourth Dimension (2001), A Tale of Love (1995) and Shoot for the Contents (1991), filmed over a quarter of a century, in different parts of Asia—are simultaneously on view in five small-scale movie theatres in The Exhibition Hall. As the viewer wanders from one theatre to the next, the proximity of the films enables their narratives to interrelate. This spatial configuration took its point of departure from Trinh’s exhibition at the Secession, Vienna, in 2001.
Forgetting Vietnam, framed by two ancient Vietnamese myths, was made in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war, touching on the memory of trauma. Night Passage, inspired by Miyazawa Kenji’s novel Milky Way Railroad (1927), narrates the spiritual journey of a young female immigrant and her two companions, into a world of in-between realities. Shot in Japan, The Fourth Dimension is Trinh’s first digital film. Using special video effects to composite images and sound in multiple layers, this film is an exploration of time through rituals of religion and culture, new technology and everyday reality. A Tale of Love is a retelling of 19th-century Vietnamese poem The Tale of Kiều (1820), through a modern-day Vietnamese immigrant in the United States. In this film, Trinh experiments with various cinematic techniques and elements. Shoot for the Contents, an excursion into allegories, explores cultural and political shifts in China, as refracted by the June Fourth incident in Beijing.
Presented in the Centre’s Single Screen from 31 October 2020 is Trinh’s newest cinematic work, What about China? (Part I of II, 2020–21). Initiated by NTU CCA Singapore, and co-commissioned with Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), Shanghai, the film takes the notion of harmony in China as a site of creative manifestation, and draws from footage shot in 1993 and 1994, in Eastern and Southern China, specifically from provinces Anhui, Hubei, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangxi—linked to the remote origins of Chinese civilisation.
Through Trinh T. Minh-ha. Writings., a display of Trinh’s books on reading platforms along the passageway connecting the five theatres in The Exhibition Hall, as well as Why are they so afraid of a lotus?, presented in The Lab by CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (Wattis), San Francisco, that showcases its year-long research season on her multifaceted practice, viewers are able to encounter her extensive writing that is core to her practice.
Trinh’s early films, Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), Naked Spaces—Living is Round (1985), and Reassemblage (1982), are part of an online film programme, Speaking / Thinking Nearby. Other films selected echo strands of discussions in Trinh’s layered practice, ranging from ethics of representation, to aspects of migration, global socio-politics, and feminism.
Besides the film programme Speaking/ Thinking Nearby, other public programmes include Mother Always Has a Mother, an online convening presented by the Centre, Wattis, and RAM, and “There is no such thing as documentary”, a conference that brings together filmmakers, film historians, and curators to question the politics embedded in presentation and representation, perception, context, and the spatial.
This is NTU CCA Singapore’s final presentation in its current exhibition space, its opening coinciding with the Centre’s seventh anniversary. By the end of this exhibition, the Centre would have hosted 55 exhibitions since its inception in 2013, inaugurated by the show Paradise Lost (2014), featuring works by Trinh T. Minh-ha alongside those of Zarina Bhimji and Fiona Tan.
Trinh T. Minh-ha. Films. is curated by Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore), Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, NTU ADM.
This project focuses on the multi-layered practice of Trinh T. Minh-ha as a filmmaker, writer, music composer and educator, generating a multi-year (2019–2022) research and programme partnership between NTU CCA Singapore, RAM, Wattis, and the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart.