Microhistories and the global south
In this symposium we will share and discuss practices in an overlapping field of art, history, visual anthropology, and humanities. Artistic researchers from Konstfack, together with guests from Fulbright University Vietnam, will present modes of history writing through artistic works concerning geographies within the global south – Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Iran/Pakistan – approaches to historical records that treat anti-colonial resistance, historical trauma, and the relation between personal and collective memory. These approaches also harbor possibilities of mediating history through reflection, re-thinking, and developing alternative epistemologies in the global south.
Mandelgren lecture hall
10.00–10.15: Welcome/introduction: Magnus Bärtås & Andrej Slávik
10.15¬–10.45: Pamela Corey: The Purpose of Parahistory in Late Socialist Vietnam
This talk explores the concept of parahistory to describe artistic strategies that use play or reenactment, emphasize affect, and most importantly, cross one time with another. Artists frame time and historical situations not to contain, but to create an opening out of the historical record. Such crossings include historical episodes of famine and food rationing in Bengal, Japan, and Vietnam, as captured in films and performance works by Phan Thao Nguyen (b. 1987, Vietnam) and Tiffany Chung (b. 1969, Vietnam). I consider parahistory as not only a means of personal awakening and reflection, but also as a way of mediating the politicized logic of history, and its deliberate rehabilitations, as it has informed public understandings of the past in late socialist Vietnam.
11.00–11.30: Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn:
Working in the Dark: Vietnamese photography and nationalism, 1862-1945 (work title)
Departing from biographical objects, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn takes an inherited family photo album as a departure point for her research. From a transnational approach, Nguyễn engages in a critical reflection on the friction between Vietnamese photographic practices at the margin and at the center of the French colonial empire with its beginning at the establishment of France on the Indochinese Peninsula with the Treaty of Saigon in 1862. While photography was widely exploited to promote French colonial expansion, the technology also served as a vector of anti-colonial resistance. The outcome of the research is twofold and includes a written thesis and an artwork.
13.00–13.30: Tram Luong: Sidenotes: Quiet is the water
“Sidenotes: Quiet is the water” is a developing project that explores the intersection between micro-histories, ethnography, and archival research. The project puts two different modalities of knowledge production into conversation with each other—first, ethnographic fieldwork conducted by the artist with survivors of ethnic-based mass violence in 1970 Cambodia, and second, journalistic accounts from the New York Times archive on the wars in Indochina in the same year. Currently, in the form of a two-channel video projection, the project is meant to juxtapose the seemingly universal human aspirations for outer space and the tragedies left on earth in its wake.
13.30–14.00: Linda Zhang:
Filming the Personal against the Collective: Red Amnesia and Ghost Festival
Wang Xiaoshuai’s 2014 thriller film, Red Amnesia, and Shen Jie’s 2013 personal documentary Ghost Festival, feature women—mothers, grandmothers, and former revolutionaries—from Guizhou province who lived through the tumultuous periods of Chinese socialism. In this presentation, I find that these two films use horror cinema conventions and personal interviews to threaten the women with the ghosts of their pasts and to refuse them a position of legitimacy within the historical narrative. My proposal is that the violence committed within the films—and the traumas uncovered—gesture towards the incommensurability between the past and the present, socialist and post-socialist generations, as well as between personal memory and collective, state history.
14.15–14.45: Behzad Khosravi Noori: The Landscape of Imagination
The Landscape of Imagination is an ongoing project analysis of archival photographs captured with a camera known in the Urdu language as the “Soul Catcher” in relation to backdrop painting in the context of the global south. By artistic research methods, involving film, installation, and archival studies, it aims to challenge the given discourses concerning the colonial and post-colonial history – and to investigate if a microhistorical approach could propose an alternative epistemology for the global south.
Pamela Nguyen Corey is an associate professor of art history in the Art & Media Studies program at Fulbright University Vietnam. She is the author of The City in Time: Contemporary Art and Urban Form in Vietnam and Cambodia (University of Washington Press, 2021) and co-editor of “Voice as Form,” a special issue of Oxford Art Journal (2020).
Tram Luong is a visual anthropologist, multimedia art practitioner, and assistant professor in the Arts & Media Studies program at Fulbright University Vietnam. Her doctorate research unpacks issues surrounding the construction of Vietnamese otherness in Cambodia, focusing on expressions of anti-Vietnam antagonisms in different conjunctures of Cambodian history.
Linda Zhang is an assistant professor of film in the Art & Media Studies program at Fulbright University Vietnam. She is currently completing a book project titled “Technological Futures: Animated Media in Socialist China,” which offers a media history of modern Chinese animation, visual culture, and popular science texts from the early Maoist era.
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn is a visual artist and currently a Visiting Scholar at Fulbright University Vietnam while conducting her PhD in the ‘Art, Technology and Design,’ a joint program offered by Konstfack and KTH. Her artworks have been shown internationally and her ongoing PhD research has so far been presented at the Musée du quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, Paris (2022); INHA, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris (2022); National Gallery Singapore (2022); Tate Britain, London (2019).
Behzad Khosravi Noori is an artist, writer, educator, playgrounder, and necromancer. His post doc-project Landscape of imaginationis funded by The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) in collaboration with Konstfack, Gold Smith University, London, and the Comparative Humanities department at Habib University, Karachi.
Microhistories and the Global South is made within the framework of the independent course Microhistories, at Konstfack, with the support from STINT – The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education.