Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s Art Brings People In Touch With Lost Ancestors

By Harley Wong
Tuan Andrew Nguyen, A Lotus in a Sea of Fire, 2020. ©2020 TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN/COURTESY THE ARTIST AND JAMES COHAN GALLERY
In Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s latest work, The Boat People (2020), a group of children search for objects left over from the ruins of human civilization. Led by a young girl, who we learn is the last woman on earth, the children call themselves the boat people, referring to their mode of transportation and reclaiming the derogatory term describing refugees who fled Vietnam by sea following the end of the American war in Vietnam in 1975. As the last survivors of the human race, the phrase becomes one of pride. To seek the stories of their ancestors, the children meticulously create wooden replicas of the objects they encounter—and eventually burn them, releasing their ashes into the ocean in a ritual unknowable to the viewer. [More]
Tuan Andrew Nguyen.