Used clothes, thread
245cm x 159cm
Vo Tran Chau’s practice often involves used fabrics, sewing and embroidery. Reflecting on the social and cultural history of Vietnam, Vo’s recent work also highlights issues surrounding labor, consumption and waste. Vo has created two abstract mosaics comprising thousands of squares cut from used clothes illegally sent to Vietnam. Depicting workers in Vietnamese textile factories in the 1960s, each quilted mosaic reflects the distinct cultural and political climates of North and South Vietnam during the conflict with the U.S. In Green, a young female worker in military dress with camouflage helmet and rifle is seen in the Nam Dinh Textile Factory in the north of Vietnam. Founded by the French in 1898, the factory was once Indochina’s largest. Formerly a symbol of pride for the residents of Nam Dinh, the factory was demolished in 2016 to make way for a new urban development. In Blue, a young woman in western style clothes with a fashionable 60s hairdo is working at a weaving loom in a Saigon textile factory. While the women in Green and Blue are a study in contrasts that speak to their respective political conditions during a dramatic period in Vietnamese history, both are hard at work with a shared focus.
Sourced from wealthy nations that send containers of waste to Vietnam (China was the world’s largest dumping ground for trash until a 2018 ban on many types of imported waste), the used fabrics in Green and Blue (cotton, polyester, denim, spandex, etc.) were regarded as valueless refuse destined for the country’s landfills before the artist claimed them.
Vietnam’s textile industry continues to boom and grow at a rapid pace and its garments are being exported at higher volumes than ever. Once consumed by wealthy nations, they will be discarded and eventually be returned to Vietnam as waste. The irony of the situation is certainly not lost on Vo.
Text by Quynh Pham- Galerie Quynh