“Who wants to remember a war?”
NUS Museum draws on war posters, woodcuts and drawings to explore
contemporary narratives of the Vietnam War
SINGAPORE, July 2016 – Presenting works from one of the largest known collections of posters and drawings from the Vietnam War, “Who Wants to Remember a War?” War Drawings and Posters from the Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran Collection delves into the shifting, often incongruous landscapes of commemoration, heritage and memory in post-war Vietnam.
The works, many depicting evocative and powerful images of the conflict, were collected between 1990 and 1993. Amidst the thick of Doi Moi economic liberalisation, interest in the war was low as the country began to look at building a future beyond narratives of war and conflict.
"Discoursing with images of war are excerpted documentaries, films, and primary source texts that raise the question of how the Vietnam War is officially commemorated, or privately remembered. Complicated and contextualised by the nation- and economy- building of the Doi Moi period, we aim to prompt the viewer to consider the boundaries between memory, heritage, and commemoration," shares exhibition curator Chang Yueh-Siang.
Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran began collecting posters and drawings from the Vietnam War during his ambassadorship to Vietnam. The loan to NUS Museum of more than 1000 works in total commenced in June 2015 and will last a period of three years.
From soldiers participating in quotidian activities to less common subjects of war like women, the non-ethnic Vietnamese and prisoners-of-war, the exhibition considers the diversity and breadth of subjects and intents depicted by wartime artists. A second, concurrent part of the exhibition, LINES, sheds light on the French influence on artistic training, and how this shaped the technical mastery of artists, as well as their expressions of intent, subjects and ideas.
The exhibition is part of an ongoing project by NUS Museum to work with educators and researchers to probe further readings of the collection and its extensive themes and points of entry. Vietnam 1954-1975 (26 June 2015 – 21 April 2016), the first exhibition from the loan, explored the works as documentation of the Vietnamese response to the war, surveying subjects and concerns for future collaborations and research in Southeast Asian and Vietnamese art and history.
"The potentials of this collection lies in its size and diversity of subjects and mediums, allowing students of history and culture to shape inquiries into varied themes and formal interests. In this exhibition, the artworks are positioned into the shifting political and economic conditions in Vietnam, contextualised to the events and conditions of the Cold War. This context brings into question their place and standing as objects of memory and history, defined by changing conceptions of self and the collective. Double Vision, while a distinct project, will, we hope, allow for tangential connections or contrasts, where Southeast Asian encounters with the United States occur within a tensive space of fascination and anxiety," comments Ahmad Mashadi, Head, NUS Museum.
Since the loan commenced, NUS Museum has presented programmes and exhibitions that draw upon the artworks, themes and concerns of the collection. Double Vision, an exhibition comprising video works and artist films inspired by the affinities between the Philippines and Vietnam during American warfare in the Pacific, runs until 31 July. On 14 July, National Gallery Singapore curator Dr Phoebe Scott discusses how revolutionary artists in the First Indochina War grappled with artistic approaches and influences.
“Who Wants to Remember a War?” War Drawings and Posters from the Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran Collection is on display in the Ng Eng Teng Gallery until 7 July 2018. LINES is on display in the NX Gallery until July 2017.
For more information about the exhibition, media interviews, gallery tours or high resolution images, please contact:
Flora TOH (Ms)