Sunday, November 25, 2012

Danh Vo: Winner of the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize

Vietnamese Berliner Danh Vo is assembling a piece-by-piece, full-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, in the same copper as the original. Vo was just announced as the winner of the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize, and will receive $100,000. 

(Photo by Nils Klinger, courtesy Galerie Chantal Crousel)

I'm just starting to become familiar with Danh Vo's work, but an immediate response is how different the interpretation of this must be to the respective communities. To whom does it become transgressive and challenging. Is it an homage without any sense of irony? Do we interpret it merely as an interesting technical exercise, or do we take the artist's heritage into account, and the full history of the Statue of Liberty? 

I can see this as a statue that is an artistic statement that changes at different points in time. What does it mean for so much of it to be unassembled throughout much of the life of the creator? For those who are living the experience as expat refugees, especially those who aren't living in the United States, but were still displaced by the American War/Vietnam War, does it take on a different significance? What does it signal to those who were born and live in Vietnam?

What would it mean if it was fully assembled in Germany, once the center of the Cold War? What would it mean if it was fully assembled in Vietnam, considering that the original was designed  by a French sculptor?

Were it to be assembled in the United States, does it serve as a potent reminder of the most prominent symbol of liberty abroad, or would we see it merely a a novelty like the replica in Las Vegas? Would it throw down the gauntlet to other refugee and immigrant communities in the future, those poor, those tired, those huddled masses, that you really can't be a part of American liberty until you try to build it yourself?

What if it is never assembled at all?  A lifetime as essentially, Liberty Disassembled. 

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