Curatorial Projects > Disrupted (2006)

Disrupted: A Photographic Installation About Memory, History & War

by Binh Danh & Elizabeth Moy

May 3 - June 17, 2006
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

How does history get recorded? What remains of history made in the context of war and destruction? What imprint does war leave behind? How does time weather our personal and collective memories?

Ruminating on these broad questions, this exhibition features new work by two artists. Binh Danh is an award-winning artist who has exhibited nationally and gained prominent recognition for his unique method of developing images inside leaves by exploiting the natural process of photosynthesis. Elizabeth Moy is a recent graduate of the California College of the Arts' MFA program whose current body of work combines her own photographic compositions with archival images her father shot over thirty years ago as an American soldier in Vietnam. Weaving together three unique perspectives on the physical and emotional effects of war, the images in this exhibition ultimately create a reflective, contemplative environment on the shifting nature of memory and history, and how we navigate the imprint of our legacy. Having personally and directly contended with the profound effects of war, both Danh and Moy look at the imprint and legacy of war and life, and through their artwork create an archive of images that speaks to the cycles of life and history - an open-ended narrative capturing stories of drifting souls.

Danh is part of a generation of Vietnamese who came to this country in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. He came to the U.S. as a child with his family in the 1970s, and returned to visit Vietnam only several years ago as a young adult. Danh has embedded the profound, visceral responses he had to the landscape of his home country in clear acrylic resin, a process that he uses to transform his leaf images into specimens, to be studied and contemplated. Moy's father served as a medical evacuee helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War as well as in the Iraq War as a helicopter pilot transporting politicians and reporters around.

Danh’s and Moy’s work simultaneously employs and transcends traditions of photography-based art. Historically, photography has often been positioned and understood as an artistic medium that captures the truth of a moment in time, turning a pure and objective experience into an image for future generations to witness. However, Danh and Moy, as well as other like-minded photographic artists, manipulate the notion that photography singularly freezes history into an image, and play around with the idea that photography can represent more than a pure, objective historical experience. They construct their visual world from an archive of images, and insert themselves into the work conceptually as a retrospective act of witness. Whether marveling at images materialized in plant leaves, or contending with the ambiguity of not knowing which images father or daughter has taken, both Danh's and Moy's work creates the opportunity to think about the emotional response to visual images, and how much of our own understanding of history we project into what we see. The exhibition's intent is best encapsulated in the austere self-portrait of Elizabeth Moy, which directly faces you entering the gallery. Her gaze is penetrating and direct, and full of complexity - vigilant, inquisitive, frustrated, tolerant, meditative, sorrowful. It follows you throughout the room, and insists that you, the viewer, also consider how you fit into the witnessing of history.