ABSTRACT

Both Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) address conflict – within and between nations, across differences of language, culture and identity and as a dynamic interaction between politics and aesthetics at the level of representation. The fact that representation is called into question by these works is not surprising; challenges to nation, identity and cultural unity were embedded within the very processes of decolonisation in Viet Nam. Investigating the ramifications of these events by necessity asks who represents whom, by what authority and to what effect. However, what interests me here is how these artworks re-inscribed those histories, through what mechanisms they were able to expose the practices of representation and, concomitantly, what new historical and political perspectives they have configured. I would argue that Trinh’s film and Lin’s public memorial offer an extraordinary opportunity to examine connections between nation, political agency, difference and representation in the wake of Viet Nam’s struggle against international imperialism3 and, moreover, that the feminist praxis embodied and developed by these works is crucial to their intervention.