San Jose, CA
The Propeller Group—an artist team based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam—blurs the boundaries between fine art and media production. Two of the group’s members, Matt Lucero, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen, studied at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California with Daniel Joseph Martinez. Along with Phunam, the third member, they share an interest in globalized street culture and a background in filmmaking. With this training, they operate as both an artist collective and a production company named TPG. Their ambitious projects are frequently anchored in Vietnam’s history or its current dynamics as a growing capitalist market, and yet they extend to address global phenomena, whether international commerce, the tools of war, or shared traditions across cultures. Working in innovative ways, The Propeller Group has developed a model that merges collaborative, conceptual art practices—partially steeped in the politically inflected artwork of the 1990s—with the forms and methods of popular media today.
The show presents a number of multi-part projects from the past five years, comprised of videos and related objects. Fade In tracks the fake antiques trade in Vietnam. The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music is a film that weaves together funerary traditions from Ho Chi Minh City and New Orleans. Other recent works scrutinize the histories of specific weapons: namely the AK-47 and M16, two rifles that in mainstream movies are often associated with Vietnam and countries in the West, respectively. This is the first time that these projects have been shown together since the group was formed in 2006.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, The Propeller Group, is a monograph that blurs the boundaries between a traditional exhibition catalog and an artist’s book in much the same way as the Propeller Group blurs the boundaries between fine art and media production. Features essays by curators Naomi Beckwith and Cesar Garcia, as well as contributions by each of the members of The Propeller Group: Nguyen pens an obituary for the group that pays homage to Vietnamese funereal celebrations, Phunam shares an astrological reading and Lucero creates a travelogue that records the group’s recent exploration of Papua New Guinea.