Dam Van Huynh on work Re:start

Phrases by Qiao Lin Tan.

In talking about author Audre Lorde, Dam Van Huynh feedback, “When she wakes up, she is politics… In a manner, I additionally describe myself in that method.”

Dam’s glittering record of accolades is superior – having graduated from the Boston Conservatory, he danced professionally with varied famend corporations, together with Merce Cunningham, Richard Alston and Phoenix Dance Theatre. He’s a choreographer who has carried out and created all around the world, the Director of Centre151, and he runs his personal skilled dance firm. An unbelievable feat, particularly contemplating the truth that he escaped the Vietnam Warfare as a toddler refugee.

“Every part about my existence – the truth that I’m talking via the type of dance and making art work – it’s all political as a result of I come from a displacement as a consequence of political implications. On account of all these displacements and the impacts economically, my household grew up fairly poor. While you take a look at the bigger panorama of accessing the humanities if you find yourself not privileged, I managed to entry the humanities via quite simple means – via group initiatives and dance types… All of this stuff, while you actually take a look at them, they actually indicate that I shouldn’t actually be in these positions the place I may develop and make artwork… It simply means these socialist programs do [work]. At any time when I’m able to current my work, for me it’s an act of politics as a result of, nicely, I shouldn’t be right here. I’m a homosexual male Asian dancer [who escaped war].”

Dam’s experiences as a toddler refugee drastically color his upcoming work at The Place, Re:start. A big ingredient of the piece is a fragmented, dualistic self, as Dam explains. As a refugee, “you’re repeatedly making an attempt to replicate forwards and backwards and also you’re not likely clear on what’s actual and what isn’t actual as you recall these reminiscences [of being displaced]”. Finally, the essence of the work is about “going from a state of disorientation into an act of orientation”. For Dam, photos that drastically knowledgeable the work embrace self-portraits by Frida Kahlo and the Napalm Woman {photograph}. In Frida Kahlo, there’s a sense of coming face-to-face with your self, and the Napalm Woman picture is an iconic illustration of each his nation’s and his personal private histories.

Picture of Dam.

Dam shares that as a maker, he’s inclined in direction of discovered supplies and objects, an eclectic mixture of sources which ties in along with his technique of making “overlapping collages” with photos and photographs as a part of the artistic course of. In describing his use of varied textual sources, components of collaging emerge strongly right here too:

“It’s about recognising that typically one’s personal voice – regardless of how seen you’re within the social construction – though could be very robust [by itself], there’s one thing about uniting [various different voices within] one house after which letting them resonate [against each other], to amplify these views and messages. It’s probably larger in a [unified] type moderately than [just] me shouting…”

In Re:start, texts from varied writers, poets and activists are a major supply of inspiration. Dam identifies a quote by Ocean Vuong that options pre-eminently within the work – “Let me start once more.” Dam sees this assertion as a manner of coming to phrases along with his experiences which have “torn [him] aside and displaced [him] all around the house”:

“Most cultures actually embrace this notion of a brand new yr as a result of it helps to distribute the load of life itself. This steady movement with out a shedding or a way of latest risk… [Beginning again] is a technique to regularly take a look at a tough topic… To see how one can see via a renewed, contemporary perspective to replicate on a serious life journey… Attempting to establish your self within the course of, to search out the place centre is, I feel it requires this act.

Let me paraphrase one thing Audre Lorde writes about. By way of this exercise of making an attempt to make clear for your self what is going on to you, some individuals get crushed by it and a few individuals handle to search out their manner via. And I feel this notion of permitting a collapse of construction, after which doing it anew once more, actually helps this course of.”

Dam’s philosophy bleeds into his firm’s motion apply, The Impression Observe. He describes a freefall train that his firm routinely does, the place they try to present themselves to gravity, totally and truthfully. Falling again and again into the earth, getting again up solely to fall once more. Dam mulls over whether or not it is a repetitive act of give up, or if this steady falling facilitates a larger progress and understanding of oneself and one’s relationship to the unchangeable (gravity). The construction should collapse in order that it may be constructed again up.

At this level within the interview, I discover that there’s something extremely alive about Dam. Some would possibly see repetition as an indication of stagnation or demise. However Dam’s bigger-picture view recognises the necessity for issues to die in order that they will proceed dwelling – that’s why it’s known as a life cycle. It’s precisely the repetition – the fixed motion – that’s alive.

Dam’s experiences are extraordinary and unimaginable for many of us, however Re:Delivery isn’t solely a story of his journey. Dam shares what it was wish to work along with his collaborators utilizing his private experiences as a springboard:

“In a manner it’s tough as a result of there’s a scarcity of shared experiences… However in one other manner it’s simpler as a result of though [Re:birth] is stemming from my very own experiences, I wouldn’t say it’s overtly an autobiography or a story of my journey… The artists are fairly numerous themselves… In a manner it’s simpler as a result of all of them come from varied totally different views so while you suggest [ideas], there’s all the time a light-weight set off for many of them as a result of even when it’s not the identical journey, the sensations are fairly comparable in some methods. In some respect, it makes the method simpler as a result of they will underpin different feelings that maybe I haven’t actually come to phrases with… Generally while you’re fermenting on one thing that’s fairly prolific in your life experiences – I wish to suppose that as I become older, I get extra perspective however typically maybe you concentrate on it a lot that the scope will get too slender. I feel {that a} artistic course of permits for that robustness of viewpoints and in a manner it’s fairly therapeutic.”

As individuals, our intuition is to catch your self earlier than you fall, however Dam’s philosophy is to present in time and again as a result of one thing new will emerge in the long term. Re:start, whether or not it’s “concerning start” or “rebirth”, is each a consideration of this strategy of steady progress and discovery, in addition to a product of Dam’s personal rebirth. Catch Re:start at The Place, Tuesday 14th November 2023, 7.30pm.