Danh Vō, ‘Ο Θεός μαύρο (Installation view)’, 2015, 56th Venice Biennale

White crystalline Greek-marble sarcophagus fragment from Rome,
end of second century AD; The Virgin of the Annunciation carved
from poplar wood with traces of polychrome, Italy, School of Nino
Pisano, c. 1350; silk dyed to RAL 3020 with reactive chemicals,
cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) fixed with alum and unknown
American cochineal is an insect used by indigenous cultures
in Mexico and Peru for dying and pigmentation for at least two
thousand years. First exported to Spain c. 1526, by 1600, next only
to silver, it was one of the most valuable commodities of Empire
trade. Spanish law protected cochineal as a Mexican monopoly
until the late eighteenth century. By 1858, the introduction of
synthetic dyes marked the decline of natural dyes.
RAL 3020 is the code used by the official Vatican tailor
in Rome to describe the color of the cardinals’ robes.
Title excerpted from lines delivered by the demon in
The Exorcist (1973).

Image rights: Photo by Alex John Beck for Artsy.


Venue: Danish Pavilion, Venice (2015)

About Danh Vō

Danh Vō’s conceptual works explore themes of appropriation and fragmentation, incorporating his experience as a Vietnamese-born Danish citizen and consistently using his own life as material. In a commentary on the practice of changing and rearranging immigrants’ names on arrival in their new home countries, Võ married and divorced several people in rapid succession in order to add their surnames to his own. He titled the work Vo Rosasco Rasmussen (2002-) after two of his spouses. Vō’s We the People (2011) is a scrupulous replica of fragments of the Statue of Liberty for which the artist took pains to ensure the same copper hammering technique. The resulting hollow pieces were exhibited spread out on the floor of a gallery space, highlighting the unexpected fragility of the original statue, visible in the thinness of its material. Vō won the Hugo Boss Prize in 2012.

Vietnamese and Danish, b. 1975, Ba Ria, Vietnam, based in Berlin, Germany