“How do you remember the past the most?”
Equal parts family recollection, historical research and spectral diary, Coco Means Ghost forms the moving image focal point of Gabi Dao’s new installation.
Rooted in Dao’s research along the Mekong Delta and her own family’s history between cultures, a sentimental dissidence employs sculpture, video and sound to put imagined contemporary and historical diasporic voices in conversation. At the centre of the exhibition is a haunting: the eponymous narrator (a ghost in the form of a coconut) resists a singular place and time, moving freely, if not lightly, through personal photographs, contemporary commentary and archival material. Other characters appear– Lan, Ong Nam, Mr.Le, Quang, An, Nguyen and Dung–and together they tell the fragmented story of Ong Dao Dua ( ‘Mr.Coconut’), a monk who founded a small, self-sustaining, anti-war community in the late 1960s-70’s on Con Phung, an island colloquially known to westerners as the “Coconut Kingdom.” Through the lens of Ong Dao Dua’s oft-mythologized character, the work becomes an avenue to explore and enmesh broader notions of memory, nationhood, belief, belonging and dreams for the future.
Dao combines the single-channel video with sonically activated sculptures that transmit her family’s narrative in another form: excerpts from “Foreign Accent Improvement” cassettes used by the artist’s parents in the 1980s. a sentimental dissidence points to texture and poetics rather than conclusive fact, and creates a landscape that at once immerses, entangles and pushes back.
Gabi Dao is an artist and co-organizer at Duplex, a DIY project space + studio collective based the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. She is interested in the insistence of counter-memory and fragmentation through the pursuit of sculpture, installation, sound, aural publishing, music and moving image. She has recently shown her in various contexts such as the Images Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Artspeak, Coop Radio, the internet, a rootftop parking lot, Western Front, The National Music Centre and Unit 17.
Curated by Vanessa Kwan
Image: Gabi Dao, Coco Means Ghost, 2019