Nguyen Trinh Thi


Landscape Series #1


Video installation, 5:00 loop, color, sound


In the single channel video Landscape Series #1, seemingly related images unfold an ambiguous narrative. As the trancelike rhythm of a clicking sound pierces through the silence, stills of people moving in different landscapes relentlessly appear and disappear. The protagonists are positioned off-center and nondescript, their sceneries similarly non-memorable. Peculiarly, in each and every still, the subject holds the same posture: half of their body towards us, the other half towards something out of the frame, always pointing at something unknown and perhaps hidden. It is as if they are all silently whispering, “I was here; I have witnessed it; I have the right to point.” 

The fact that these images were taken by numerous local press photographers in Vietnam and collected by the artist from authorized online popular newspapers is suggestive of the persuasive power of the media and its control of our visual landscape. With their original content and caption removed, the instability and theatricality of these images become more evident. The absence of context highlights their impossibility to ever fully record the truth, it asks to whose purpose these images are circulating, are they part of a political game? By making almost invisible the relevant context and placing these images inside a gallery environment,  Thi creates a sense of distance and dislocation. This anxiety and alienation challenges our moral position as both media producers and consumers – Can we, and should we, ever trust what we see on the screen?