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World Premiere of Dinh Q. Le's "Saigon Diary" at UB Anderson Gallery Sept. 17

Vietnamese artist addresses proliferation of waste in rapidly growing consumer economies

Release Date: August 31, 2011

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Saigon Diary: A collaborative project by Dinh Q. Le, mixed media installation, 2009-11; project funded by Art Matters, N.Y.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Saigon Diary," a 12-channel mixed-media installation by Dinh Q. Le, a Vietnamese artist best known for his woven-photographs, will receive its world premiere at the University at Buffalo's Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place, Buffalo, Sept. 17 through Dec. 31.

The exhibition will be free and open to the public, as will its opening reception from 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 17. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 1-5 p.m.

The exhibition is an incisive commentary on the radical changes taking place in Vietnam as it moves from a socialist to a capitalist economy, a process that has provoked the birth of a new generation of consumers and their attendant waste.

Curator Sandra Firmin says, "Over the course of a year, Le created video documentaries of the activities of 12 'recycling women' whose work requires them to travel long distances throughout Saigon, which was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.

"Pushing carts or on bicycles, they accumulate large loads of waste dominated by cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, Heineken beer cans and light construction materials. The documentaries take viewers from the wealthy city center to its poor outer districts; from main thoroughfares clogged with beeping mopeds to quiet winding alleyways," she says.

In the course of following the women on their daily routes, Firmin says Le produces a visual map of the city and weaves vivid portraits of their lives into the fabric of Saigon.

Typical of his collaborative practice, the artist worked with three people in Vietnam -- a homemaker, a high school teacher and an electrical engineer -- to create the sculptures in the exhibition that represent some of the concerns and desires of the city's inhabitants.

The topics addressed by the sculptures include the rapid horizontal and vertical growth of Saigon, problems of substandard construction, the constant rise of the cost of living and the loss of street culture. The conversation attending the construction of one sculpture, a boat made out of plastic bottles and empty medicine packages, for instance, revolved around high health care costs for the poor and the vulnerability of the wetlands on which Saigon is built.

Dinh Q. Le was born in Ha-Tien, Vietnam, in 1968 and immigrated to the United States when he was 11. He received his MFA in photography and related media from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1992, and then returned to Ho Chi Minh City, where he now lives and works.

His art has been exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at the Bellevue Art Museum, Washington, and the Asia Society, New York. Le was featured in the 2003 Venice Biennial and in 2006 participated in both the 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia and The Gwangju Biennial, Korea.

He co-founded Vietnam Art Foundation (VNFA), a Los Angeles-based organization that supports and promotes the artistic activities of cultural workers from Vietnam. With funding from VNFA, Le and three other artists co-founded San Art, the first nonprofit gallery in Ho Chi Minh City. He is currently a member of the peer committee for Art Network Asia, and a member of the Asia Society's international council.

The "Saigon Diary" project was made possible by a grant from the Art Matters Foundation. Generous support for the exhibition and catalog publication was provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation.

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