Vân-Nhi Nguyen. Winner of the 2023 Aperture Portfolio Prize.

While Vietnam represents for many in the West a place where a war was fought or athletic shoes are made, its people bear witness to a richer & far more complex reality. To expand and challenge the existing perception of Vietnamese people, it is to be able to see and understand the unruliness of it, through the excess of memories bestowed physically in this country; some given prominence through statues or architectures, while others are left to obliteration; the bodies become vessels for memories. Memories bridge the past and the present but what is this memory we all have? History is too regional and everything else is word of mouth. One can remember such an event happened in our lifetime that may or may not have affected their own livelihood, but to what extent? To what extent does one believe in and is it the truth? What truth does one want to believe in and what truth is omitted and distorted? To question these notions, it is to reconstruct our own memories, the unusual, often overlooked places and people where one finds themself positioned.

As they enter these spaces so rich of personal stories, with no neat beginning or an end, yet so recognizable to the collective people: mosquito nets, pressed cotton mattress, floral polyester curtains, etc. Their gaze commands their environment – it is recognition of looking, but also being looked at. An unsparing reminder of the fraught history lived, where images of our bodies were produced to form the sedimented understanding of western orientalists on racial supremacy, between the settlers & the societies they ruled over. Thus, it is to use this same gaze as a subtle approach in skewering with the objectifying tropes of the colonial objects- it is to complicate these notions- it is to see better. A reliance and close study of individual styles and cultural relevance of each image’s landscape to tell its own story, to challenge traditions and reveal whatever it wants to. Its visual codes cueing the viewer’s interpretation. The images subvert these assumptions with dignity and sympathy, disrupting the signaling that triggers categorization.


Vân-Nhi Nguyễn is a Vietnamese person based in Hà Nội, Việt Nam. Her work surrounds the idea of memories; looking, seeing, questioning, believing.