When a Boat Becomes a Burial

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The Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst is proud to present Germany’s first solo exhibition by the Vietnamese artist Tuần Andrew Nguyễn. In “When a Boat Becomes a Burial” (working title), his collaborative projects and poetic artworks explore how telling stories can help heal old wounds. To this end, he works together with communities from various regions around the world which have been traumatised by colonialism, wars and displacement. His latest project is the centrepiece of the exhibition in Oldenburg: an investigation of an outrigger boat, currently on display at the Ethnological Museum at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, which has sparked debate in recent years concerning its provenance.

The exquisitely handcrafted boat originated on the island of Luf in Papua New Guinea and was used by the island’s inhabitants for sailing, fishing and ceremonial activities until the late 19th century. In the context of German colonial brutality, the boat was seized and sent to Berlin from former “German New Guinea” in 1904. With the loss of the boat – the last of its kind – the islanders also lost the artisanal knowledge that went into constructing it. Nguyễn artistically examines the boat’s history in a multichannel video installation, along with a series of objects which he produced in collaboration with descendants of Luf. For the film installation, Nguyễn incorporated historical photographic and film material, dialogues and contemporary photos from the museum, and stages these as documentation in fictional scenes. His project is not so much about reconstructing history, but rather reviving it through artistic imagination. Nguyễn views the boat as a “bridge between the past and future, between the prevailing narrative of German colonialism and the erased stories of the people of Papua New Guinea”.

Following its initial presentation in Oldenburg, the exhibition will be shown at The Showroom in London and the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) in Toronto.

Artistic directors: Edit Molnár and Marcel Schwierin
Artist: Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn
Exhibition, Oldenburg (Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst): 31 Oct. 2024 – 05.01.2025; exhibition, London (The Showroom): Jan./Feb. 2025

Book launch, Oldenburg (Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst): 3 Jan. 2025; exhibition, Toronto (AGYU – Art Gallery of York University): April – August 2025


Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst

Katharinenstraße 23
26121 Oldenburg
https://www.edith-russ-haus.de/ (external link, opens in a new window)