re·or·i·ent /ˌrēˈôrēənt/ (verb) 1. change the focus or direction of. “the country is reorienting its social policies” 2. find one’s position again in relation to one’s surroundings. “slowly they advanced, stopping every so often and reorienting themselves”
As expressed by Edward Said in Orientalism, our understanding of the Western world can only be appreciated by recognizing it as constructed by a Western binary in opposition to the East, or the Orient. This unstable and false dichotomy is demonstrated in Thinh Nguyen’s work, where the viewer’s assumptions of race, gender, and sexuality are visually interrogated.
At the heart of this body of work is the ability to expand one’s focus. To rotate the lens in which we perceive the world (using artist Titus Kaphar’s metaphor) simply to benefit from additional, excluded narratives. This is a pulse check, a reassessment, a chance to pause and reappraise the internal compass that we use to navigate. Hence, the title REORIENT, which references directionally the sun rising in the east, and is a nod to the artist’s national origin, Vietnam. Divided into three sections, Gendering, De-Centering, and Pandemic, this exhibit responds to our collective cultural moment.
The exhibit is currently presented in digital format. When we resume in-person life, a physical exhibit will be mounted.
Image: Thinh Nguyen, State of Being, acrylic on found T-shirts, variable dimensions, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.