In his practice of appropriation, deconstruction, and reconfiguration, Danh Vo considers quotidian objects to be witnesses to narratives of both personal and global significance. Drawing on the tradition of the readymade, Vo recontextualizes these objects, referencing both his personal history as a Vietnamese émigré and the transnational legacies of colonialism, capitalism, displacement, and immigration.
In this work, Vo presents fragments of two chairs that furnished the White House Cabinet Room during the Kennedy administration. The chairs, once occupied by President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, were acquired by Vo in an auction of McNamara’s possessions. McNamara, who served under both Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, played a decisive role in pursuing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In stripping the chairs of their leather upholstery and interior lining, Vo renders them nonfunctional and unidentifiable. The resulting fragments, rid of any recognizable significance, raise questions about the subjective nature of historical truth and the erosion of collective memory.
Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 224.