Edition 2023

PRESENTED BY Florida Lothringer 13, Munich, Germany.

Hien Hoang

Across the Ocean    

“All is well. Across the ocean,” Hien Hoang’s aunt wrote in a letter to her family, from Berlin in 1988. The note, written soon after her migration from Vietnam to East Germany as a contract worker, resounds with the façade of acceptance that an individual must uphold when assimilating into a foreign society. Despite rampant discrimination, the “good immigrant” must not complain.   

When Hoang visited her aunt in 2014, she was struck by the dichotomy between the tone of her aunt’s letters over the years and the struggle that marked her life. When she subsequently moved to Germany herself, confronting the same clichés that her aunt had negotiated, Hoang’s response was not as passive. Across the Ocean is a provocation, and a challenge posed, to the stereotyping of Asian culture by Western society.

The tableaux play on the Orientalist desire for the consumption of exotic cultures. The thirst to experience that which is unknown, but in a form that is palatable for a globalized  public. The convenient co-existence of the popularity of “Asian food” and the fetishization of Asian women’s bodies. In looking at culture as packaged commodity, Hoang comments on the homogenization that is imposed on vastly different communities, folded together under one diasporic identity.

Playing with distortion, she uses deformity as metaphor for the warping of identity. Splitting the image to mark the distance between Western culture’s perception of us and our image of ourselves in the world; the attribution of terms such as “people of color” or “Asian” when we exist in the diaspora. Despite the suffocation from this burden of identity; the ideal immigrant must learn to smile their way through. Building a counter-image to popular tropes, Hoang enacts a performative refusal to the pigeon-holing of identity.

Tanvi Mishra

Curator: Tanvi Mishra

With support from the Louis Roederer Foundation and Polka.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture