VAN TRAN NGUYEN
I Can Make You Happy, 2015, Video, continuous loop. Film Still: Courtesy of the artist.
Van Tran Nguyen’s continuous looped video I Can Make You Happy forecloses a linear narrative sequence in favor of a repetitious circularity. This form compliments the content of her video. The woman’s hair is bound up in braids tied to various points along the walled interior. As if caught in a gentle breeze, the movements of the braids only underscore the performer’s bound situation, and this is Nguyen’s commentary on hair play. Girls from a young age are taught to play with their hair, innocuously, but it can become obsessive, repetitious, and pathological: trichotillomania. This impulse disorder transforms “play” to “pull” and those that experience it “play”with their hair by pullingit out. But Nguyen’s emphasis in her broader practice on hair—one marker of (ill) health—connects any interaction with hair as a bodily affect to more specific racialized and gendered social structures.
Van Tran Nguyen (b. 1992) completed her Masters of Fine Arts and Emerging Practices at the State University of New York at Buffalo and is currently working on her PhD in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is the first Biological Art teaching assistant at COALESCE Center of Biological art, a facet of the GEM (Genome, Environment and Microbiome) group. Tran Nguyen has exhibited and curated exhibitions throughout New York. She was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and her work investigates issues such as national identity and gender.