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Pazifik - Leipzig
Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai

The work of Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai (born 1983 in Ha Tay / Hanoi, lives and works in Hue, Vietnam) explores cultural and sexual identity and addresses issues of origin, belonging and migration.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai portrait© Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai

She graduated from Huế College of Arts in 2006 and completed her M.A in Visual Arts at the Mahasarakham University, Thailand in 2012. Thanh Mai works with a variety of media, including photography and video. Her earlier works concentrated on issues relating to women’s experiences and rights in Asian social contexts. Recently, her practice has turned to questions of identity, both personal and collective, including issues of migrants’ experiences and rights. She explores the complex relationships between individuals and society, and the role of fantasy and imagination in people’s conception of their existence.

Her works have been featured in Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Jogja Biennale 2019, Yogjakarta; National Gallery Singapore; Asia Society Museum, New York; Gallery PM, HDLU Zagreb, Croatia. In 2014, she received the Pollock-Krasner Grant from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and in 2021 the Excellent Artist Award from The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre (Saigon, Vietnam). She co-founded Mơ Đơ art space and Nổ Cái Bùm art festival in Huế in 2020.

Being at LIA in 2022 offer her opportunities to visit art festivals in Germany, such as documenta 15 in Kassel, as well as to observe and learn about diverse practices at Art and Culture Centre Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

  • thanhmai01 © Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai
  • thanhmai02 © Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai
  • thanhmai03 © Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai
  • thanhmai04 © Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai

In Hue most people still live in a traditional way. Women have to fit in the traditional housewife stereotype of being obedient, soft-spoken, gentle, and faithful. Sexuality is a taboo subject in this society. At school and at home, there is very limited sex education, which means that girls especially are left to discover their own body alone. All that social pressure creates in many women an irrational sense of fear and discomfort towards our body. Many women of my generation share the same sentiments. It is still a challenge for us to speak openly about our fears and desires. Thanh Mai’s works, particularly her many installations that make use of a variety of media, show a consistent concern with the taboo issues of sexuality and femininity and with the relationship between body, memory and violence. Recently, she had also turned her attention to other, broader concerns, including migration and national identity. Yet the notion of struggle and an attention to the difficult and oppressed feelings remains central to her practice.

Black landscape© Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai