‘The Sounds of Cannons, Familiar Like Sad Refrains (Đại Bác Nghe Quen Như Câu Dạo Buồn),’ 2021 Tuan Andrew Nguyen

The bombing of several regions in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during the Vietnam War (1955 to 1975) by the United States Armed Forces—what is considered the largest aerial bombardment in human history—left hundreds of thousands of unexploded ordnances hidden underground, that still pose a tremendous threat to local inhabitants today. In this film, Tuan Andrew Nguyen juxtaposes archival footage from the US army with recently recorded images of an unexploded ordnance (UXO) deactivation in the Vietnamese coastal province of Quảng Trị. The province is one of the main UXO hotspots in the Mekong region, with 8,540 casualties and 3,431deaths recorded since the end of the Vietnam War. More widely, it is estimated that UXO explosions have caused 40,000 deaths in Vietnam; 29,000 in Laos, of which 40% are believed to be children; and more than 64,000 in Cambodia since the end of the war.

For Nguyen this work is part of a regenerative process. It aims to contribute towards the healing of a land that was dispossessed by its contamination. Landmine and UXO pollution has especially affected rural populations, leaving a dramatic trail of fatalities and amputated limbs, and those populations must be liberated from the threat of death that lies beneath the surface.

Taking its title from a line in the late sixties song Đại Bác Ru Đêm (Lullaby of Cannons for the Night) by Vietnamese songwriter and poet Trịnh Công Sơn, the film follows one of the unexploded ordnances and gives it a voice through an animistic transformation. From its drop, to its detonation in the rainforests of Vietnam, it offers closure to a menacing narrative that had been on hold for decades.

This work is the first iteration of an ongoing project that contains multiple facets and chapters.

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Social Justice
Produced by:
Curated by:
22/06 2021
Tuan Andrew Nguyen
The Sounds of Cannons, Familiar Like Sad Refrains (Đại Bác Nghe Quen Như Câu Dạo Buồn), 2021
Two-channel video, color, sound
9 min 41 sec
Production Manager Nguyễn Phương | Camera Dương Hoàng Long & Tuan Andrew Nguyen | Flycam Nguyễn Thái Huy Vũ & Võ Chí Thạnh | Assistant Camera Hà Văn Huy | Edited by Tuan Andrew Nguyen | Postproduction Audio Nam Nguyen, Vick Vo Hoang & Wallsound | Music written by Trịnh Công Sơn | Music performed by Khánh Ly
Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) for st_age, in collaboration with The Propeller Group
Cover image: Courtesy of the Artist

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