Tropical Siesta forms part of Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen’s larger project, ‘Poetic Amnesia’. The latter is based on the artist’s research into the life and work of French Jesuit missionary, Alexandre de Rhodes, who is considered the father of the romanised Vietnamese script still in use today. Tropical Siesta is a two-channel video installation that tells an imaginary tale of rural Vietnam, informed by de Rhodes’ colourful obser vations as he travelled through the country in the 17th century.
The universe created by Phan is one populated only by children, who make up an agricultural community. They engage not only in farming work, but play games of makebelieve – recreating, for instance, de Rhodes’ accounts of various barbaric methods of punishment, as well as his documenting of a folktale of the worship of a Chinese princess as a water goddess. Accompanying the installation are several paintings, rendered on x-ray film backing, of images from the videos. The artist remarks of the world she has created: “I wish to construe a realm of works that are interconnected … by means of which genres can coexist in a dreamlike, democratic utopia. In such a realm, the grandiose and the humble, the brutal and the fragile, the documented and the fictional, the stable and the ephemeral, the fantastic and the practical cohabit.”