Keywords: Vietnamese Refugee Camps, Hong Kong Refugees Camps, White Head Refugee Camp, Pillar Point Refugee Camp, Singei Besi Refugees Camp, Pulau Bidong Refugee Camp, Bien Nho (Trinh Cong Son, Khanh Ly,) postcards, found objects, thanatourism, mail art

Thanatourism, also known as dark or death tourism, refers to the exhibition, promotion and attraction to sites such as concentration camps, natural disasters, terror attacks, burial grounds and memorials. This particular form of “negative sightseeing” operates as part of the recreational landscape of tourism. In recent years, a number of former Vietnamese refugee camps in Hong Kong and Malaysia have been marketed as tourist and recreational spots.

The project considers the metamorphosis of these sites of trauma and the entangled discourses of leisure, heritage, survival and memorialization that circulate around current reunion tours to these former refugee camps. The artists visited these historically charged sites, created and sent postcards to the gallery space. They also collected found objects as souvenirs, perhaps even talismen, charged with affective and representational force.  If the camp, as Georgio Agamben asserts, exemplifies the contemporary condition of vulnerability, a reduction to nothing but bare life, the material and psychic antidote to this condition is the impulse to collect as a process of recuperation. It is both a claim and a re-claimation of the present and past.

Ngay Mai Em Di (Tomorrow I Leave) is a line from a famous and beloved Vietnamese song that was customarily heard over the intercom when an internee was discharged from a refugee camp, either to settle in the West or to be repatriated. It is a song of both hope and mourning, and speaks to the conflictual feelings bound up in the legacy of war and the aspiration toward freedom. Recruiting this sense of conflict,our project asks what happens to memory and politics in the absence of ruins. Are histories haunted by violence and loss instrumentalized by tourism and commodification? Can ghosts be politicized?

(After the end of the Vietnam War, political retributions coupled with poverty and the total destruction of the country caused hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to flee the country. Hong Kong adopted the "port of first asylum policy," receiving over 100,000 Vietnamese at the peak of exodus in the late 1980’s. In Malaysia, refugee camps were set up on uninhabited islands. On the island of Pulau Bidong, Malaysia, over 250,000 Vietnamese refugees were accommodated over the years. Pulau Bidong camp was officially closed on October 30th, 1991. Pillar Point refugee camp, the last refugee camp in Hong Kong, was officially closed on May 31st, 2000.)

Tomorrow I Leave


mixed-media installation: photographs, postcards, found objects, pedestals, HD video player and monitor

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