Loss in the Aftermath
At the end of every war the statistics are released; a representation of totality at the conclusion of a conflict; a roll call of dollars, damage and deaths. Loss in the Aftermath(2018), a responsive work to Herbert Schmalz’s Too Late(1884-86), takes this economic assessment and extends it by examine ongoing and inherited trauma, through post war displacement and loss.
Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, 1 to 2 million people fled the country as boat people. Of this number an estimated 500,000 to 1 million never saw land again. Expanding on themes and concepts explored in earlier works such as, Article 14.1(Next Wave Festival, 2014) and My Dad the People Smuggler (Counihan Gallery, 2013), Loss in the Aftermathexamines concepts of ongoing loss in a post conflict environment through the experiences of the Vietnamese people following the end of the Vietnam War and rise of communism.
The work combines photography and sculptural installation in illustrating the ongoing sense of loss that is still felt several generations into the Vietnamese Diaspora. A series of 6 portraits re-photographed from found online images of Vietnamese boat people, loom large, anguished, drained, fearful and weary in front of the viewer. Cropped in by the lens of the camera these burry portraits illustrate the emotions of post war trauma, the loss of place, home and country. Mounted in the center of the gallery they are contemplative images, in the end these are the survivors. The back of their heads reflective red acrylic pushes back against their history and past hardships, literally reflecting on ‘Too Late’.
To the front of the portraits, sits a number of red empty hammocks. A ubiquitous object in Vietnam, from rocking children to sleep to rest stops and bars on the side of the road; hammocks are a part of daily life in Vietnam, even making their way to refugee camps following the fall of Saigon. Automated to rock independently, their emptiness representing the loss of life at sea, forever unoccupied by those who never saw land again.
Loss in the Aftermathis a work that has been created as a memorial to those lost at sea and to honour the experiences of survivors. People like my parents and the countless others who have gone on to raise my generation after suffering so much hardship in the post war environment.
Despite its melancholy, Loss in the Aftermathis a testament to the political, economic and social freedoms attained by those who got on boats all those years ago. It is a contribution to Australian political and creative discourse, questioning historic and contemporary policies affecting those seeking the rights we so freely take for granted.