I bumped into Dat Vu at a friends’ lunch gathering. The guy sounds strange enough with his look and the story about him driving a beat-up Honda Win across the region to look for “a friendly meaning of death” over a course of one year as a Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellow. I look him up later that day and found his recent work Glass Closet, Secret Egg, the name again is as unusual as its statement.
In all of your work, human gestures play an important role. What about this drives you to explore the theme?
Dat Vu: Gestures to some extent are perfomative body languages and they tell a lot about a person’s state of mind in my opinion. I also really like dancing so visually I am attuned to different physical movements.
As a Vietnamese, my first impression while looking at Glass Closet, Secret Egg was how familiar the pattern and scenery are, but at the same time, they are equally puzzling. On the surface, the images show daily moments in Vietnam, but underneath they hold a lot of metaphorical meanings. What do you want to convey here?
I started this series because I have often felt out of place with the different environments I’ve got to live in (I have been living in 3 different countries in the past 10 years). Despite familiarizing myself with the cultures and the people, I don’t completely belong with them. Oftentimes I would look at things and people and start making up stories about them to make sense of the situation. Then I would proceed to take pictures of such things and people.
In Glass Closet, Secret Egg, viewers are constantly taken from one dream-like space to another, trying to piece together clues in each images. Are you experiencing the same narratives while going through your own work?
Definitely! After all I intend this series to be more or less like a dream sequence without a straightforward narrative. I like to work my brain in order to form some connections between the images, like how you travel from one to another taking into consideration the form and content being presented. It’s more fun that way!
Can you briefly talk about your imagination, dream in one of your images?
To be honest, it is rather hard to talk about that in one image, because I usually trace my stream of thoughts in a sequence, for example what about this image will carry on, set the tone, and/or inform us about the next one and vice versa. Anyway, in this image (right down below), I was sort of inspired by a line from the song Mad World performed by Gary Jules. It goes “… the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I ever had,” so I want to entertain the idea of such a dream. I remember the time when I almost died of drowning when I was a kid, so I chose to let the character in picture seemingly die in water.
Many people would question the Glass Closet, Secret Egg title. Can you explain why you chose this phrase and the meaning behind it?
The title was actually suggested by a writer friend of mine. Just imagine a closet that is made of glass and an egg that is supposed to have secret inside it. Pretty senseless right? Yet I really like the imagery behind it. It speaks to my attitude in which I am presenting something secretive about myself but at the same time I am making it as obscure as possible.
How do you see your work progress in the future? Are you going to continue with Glass Closet, Secret Egg series?
I am becoming interested in the idea of performance and intervention within a space, and how they convey a certain subconscious narrative. Right now I am still making works in a similar vein as Glass Closet, Secret Egg, but I envision incorporating video or sculpture into this concept, maybe turning it into something interactive!
Many thanks Dat, I’m looking forward to see what you’ll come up after this one year fellowship. See you around!
Dat Vu is a Vietnamese born photographer. He received his BA from Wesleyan University in 2015. Currently he is living and working in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for a year as a Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellow.
Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.