Beginning this Thursday, July 8, Galerie Quynh will present The Complex of the Glass Frog – an exhibition of new work by Sandrine Llouquet. Llouquet’s third solo exhibition at the gallery will feature ambitious installation-based work derived from her drawing practice. The large-scale works are inspired by the more formal elements of line and color that define her minimal drawings of curiously winsome and violent subjects.

For this exhibition, Llouquet eschews her usual paper support and takes her drawings into three dimensions. Klee described drawing as taking a line for a walk; Llouquet’s lines become active subjects following an intuitive journey that twists, winds and entangles.

Of Vietnamese descent, Sandrine Llouquet was born in 1975 in Montpellier, France. She graduated from École Pilote Internationale d’Art et de Recherche – Villa Arson following a years’ study at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Art. She has spent the last five years living and working in Ho Chi Minh City. An active contributor to the development of the art scene in Vietnam, she is co-founder of Wonderful District, a project that promotes contemporary art through exhibitions, concerts and theater pieces, as well as a member of Mogas Station, a Vietnam-based artist collective. Llouquet’s work has been exhibited in numerous venues including the Palais de Tokyo, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and most recently at the Tate Modern (presented by San Art in No Soul for Sale). She has also participated in a number of biennales with Mogas Station such as the Shenzhen Biennale (2007), the Singapore Biennale (2006) and in Migration Addicts – a collateral event of the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Opening reception: Thursday, July 8 from 6 – 8pm

Exhibition dates: July 9 – August 21, 2010

Location: Galerie Quynh, 65 De Tham Street, District 1, HCMC, Vietnam

Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 6pm, Closed on Sundays and Mondays

Contact information: Thu Vu (English); Huynh Kim Yen (Vietnamese), info@galeriequynh.com, +84 (8) 3836 8019

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This month, AsiaLIFE examines the lives of eight expatriates from around the globe in our first People Issue. Hailing from Ghana, Israel, France, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Australia, South Korea and the United States, these individuals have made Vietnam home for many different reasons, but they all live a life less ordinary. Taken together, their stories reveal something more about modern-day Vietnam and the opportunities it holds for the enterprising and adventurous.

Also this month: Hiphop legend DJ Premier in the Q&A seat. Dave Lemke brings us on a photographic tour of the streets of Havana. Beth Young wonders whether Bui Vien is growing up in Street Smart. Jeremy Kressmann immerses himself in Myanmar’s colonial past. Jade Bilowol travels to a Central Highlands village where women rule the roost. Alexandra Karina gives us the skinny on the sticky Vietnamese staple xoi. Krista Lambie learns how individuals afflicted with leprosy overcome stigma in Vietnam. Thomas Maresca heads to Mui Ne to attend a triathlon rooted in environmental and social responsibility. Brett Davis profiles a new social networking site that’s uniting the Vietnamese diaspora in the digital domain. And Jade Bilowol visits perhaps the coolest office in Saigon (and revs up a Segway).

Update: This exhibit has been extended through May 1.

If you haven’t yet stopped by Galerie Quynh to see the current exhibit, Static Motion, you’ve got one more week to do so before the show closes.

And you certainly should. The pairing of these almost monochromatic series might seem like an odd choice, but once you step into the space, even before you engage with the individual pieces, the title of the exhibit makes immediate sense. By showing George Papadimas’ geometric sculptures and Nguyen  Thanh Truc’s collage-esque paintings together, gallery owner Quynh Pham has created a space the seems alive with an electronic buzz. At a certain depth of field, Nguyen’s paintings, anchored by Papadimas’ sculptures, seem to have the blizzard-like entropy of dropped broadcast flickering on your television screen:

Individually, the artists’ works capture the relationship between stasis and movement, as well.

There is something irresistible about Papadimas’ sculpture. You can’t help but walk circles around them, attempting to divine meaning in their vertices, watching as they seem to morph as you move. Papadimas often employs algorithms in his construction, and here he focuses on “the oppositional nature of the numbers 0-9.”  In the exhibit literature, Pham writes that the sculptures “allude to an order that goes beyond societal and cultural appropriations.” Perhaps that’s why you feel like you could obsess over the objects for hours; they seem to reflect something essential and unknowable, the tantalizing gap between the potential of mathematics to reveal mysteries of the natural order and our ability to actually conceptualize the answers.

If Papadimas’ sculptures exist askew of society, Nguyen Thanh Truc’s paintings provide a sort of visual expression of its ability to consume us and our attempts to impose order on the flood of information that assails us today. Nguyen adheres strips of newspapers and magazines to canvas, clips of the information stream that shape our reality. Visualized this way, one of our meaning making systems–the media–seems almost like an assault on our senses. As a magazine writer and rabid consumer of media, I find Nguyen’s work extremely potent. It has the ability to simultaneously express the sense of duty news consumers feel to utilize all of the information available via print, broadcast and Internet, the futility of that project and the guilt associated with the project’s failure. I cannot speak to the engagement with Vietnamese society, politics and culture expressed in the headlines, but I think Nguyen’s paintings transcend Vietnam in some ways.

The show runs through Saturday, April 24. Head down to Galerie Quynh at 65 De Tham in District 1. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 6pm.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

photo by Fred Wissink, AsiaLIFE

Word is starting to spread about the sensational nature of reportage that has surrounded the potential discovery of Sean Flynn’s remains since we first wrote about the fuzzy journalism on this blog. Writing for Salem-News.com, Tim King has also called into question initial reports on the excavation that led to the discovery, which was carried out by the now notorious Dave Macmillan.

In the article, King, the executive editor of Salem-News.com, says Macmillan may not deserve that notoriety. He covers some of the aspects that initial reports left out, including the following: “Investigator Dave MacMillan, told Salem-News.com that his team acted with the consent of the Cambodian military, local police, local community leaders and landowners, and with the full knowledge of JPAC, (Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command) in Hawaii.”

He quotes Macmillan as saying, “We are not amateur bone hunters, we volunteered to help Rory [Flynn] on her mission and worked as her field agents and did not receive payment for what we have done and are still doing, both Mr.Scott Brantley who is a registered private investigator from Nashville Tennessee and myself have combined 35 years of investigation experience between us.”

King was also contacted by Mike Luehring, a representative for the Flynn family, who confirmed Macmillan’s statements and referred to early press coverage of the event as “crazy.”

In an earlier article written by King, the writer includes Macmillan’s 8-point response to implications and accusations made by Sopheang Cheng, who wrote the widely circulated AP article, and Tim Page, the famed war photographer who has also been searching for Sean Flynn, his personal friend, for years. Among Macmillan’s more scathing rebuttals is the following:

“The article neglects to mention that Tim Page had in fact worked closely with me for at least a year on a recent search for Sean Flynn and had publicly stated his intention to publish a book about the project—which would have been his second book about his search for Sean Flynn. He had also been in discussion to make a documentary film about his search, which also would have been his second. His public claims pertaining to our crew being freelance bone hunters and that we desecrated a mass grave is so he can hold onto a production deal for a major documentary he is due to start shooting in Cambodia with Wall to Wall.”

Page has publicly criticized the means by which Macmillan and his acquaintance Keith Rotheram carried out the excavation, saying that their use of an excavator could have potentially disrupted nearby mass graves.

Macmillan responds directly to this criticism:

“Our use of the excavator has been misrepresented. Page’s claim that we potentially harmed a mass grave is inaccurate. The area we dug was a single gravesite. We used the excavator because we knew the grave was deeper than usual, due to the body being weighted down with rocks. All we had to do was carefully skim the soil and feel for rocks, at which point we stopped the machine and I did the rest by hand.”

The remains are currently being DNA tested at a JPAC facility in Hawaii. It is not known when the results will be in, but in the meantime, the events that led to the discovery and the aftermath are adding up to a story in itself.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

Jeff Holt/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The international media seems to be cadging on to the minutiae of everyday life in Vietnam. Michael Sullivan recently contributed this piece to NPR that chronicles Vietnam’s epidemic of motorbike text messaging, a major contributor to the country’s abysmal traffic safety record. (According to the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, traffic accidents are the leading cause of child and adolescent deaths–approximately six children a day died in accidents in 2007.)

Our favorite part is the bit in which Sullivan quotes Pham Thi Thuy Linh, a 21-year-old student who was named fastest text messager in a contest sponsored by a mobile phone company: “I think I’m about 20 or 30 percent slower texting on my bike. And it’s easier to make mistakes because I’m trying to watch the road in front of me.”

Yikes.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

David Macmillan handing over potential remains of Sean Flynn to the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh. Photo by Fred Wissink

On Sunday, AsiaLIFE contributing editor Thomas Maresca and Simon Parry of Hong Kong’s Red Door News Agency, along with AsiaLIFE photo editor Fred Wissink, broke the story in the Sunday Mail and South China Morning Post that the remains of Sean Flynn, the famed war photographer and son of actor Errol Flynn who went missing in Cambodia in 1970 along with colleague Dana Stone, may have been found by Australian David Macmillan and Briton Keith Rotheram.

Soon after the story broke, the Associated Press began widely distributing an article by Sopheng Cheang reporting on the impending forensic tests that will be carried out to determine if the bones–which Macmillan and Rotheram turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday–are indeed the remains of Sean Flynn.

The article, however, appears heavily biased against the find, and at the very least overlooks or intentionally omits important information.

By the ninth graf, the article seems to cast suspicion on Macmillan and Rotheram’s motives, noting that: “Freelance ‘bone hunters’ have also taken up the search for both missing journalists and US service personnel. Some proved to be swindlers who demanded money from relatives of the missing.”

(At the time of writing, neither Macmillan nor Rotheram have made any claims that the bones they found are the remains of Sean Flynn.)

Tim Page, the photographer and friend of Flynn who has been on the hunt as well, is quoted in the following grafs regarding his doubts about the dig:”It was not a forensic dig – they used an excavator and uncovered a full set of remains, which they removed from the site,” Page said.

The AP article fails to note two major aspects of the dig. First, Macmillan and Rotheram’s efforts were partially funded by Flynn’s surviving sister, Rory, who was quoted in Maresca and Parry’s article as saying, “I grew up with Sean and also named my son after him, so we have hoped and prayed that his remains would be found … Information came to me in the past year that motivated this private search and we hope that the person found is my brother so that he can finally come home.”

Second, Tim Page worked alongside David Macmillan to some degree to make advances in the search. It was Macmillan who put AsiaLIFE in touch with Tim Page in February 2009 for a special feature that ran in our March issue, “The Last Search for Sean Flynn. At the time of the interview, Page told AsiaLIFE he was at work on a book chronicling his search, tentatively titled Bones of Contention. He also expressed interest in having a documentary film on the subject made. The article made no mention of Page and Macmillan’s past history.

What is troubling is that Cheang’s AP article has been distributed to hundreds of newspapers around the world, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Australian.

AsiaLIFE was contacted about two weeks ago by Macmillan after he made the discovery. He requested that Thomas Maresca, who wrote the March special feature, cover the story. Macmillan was later approached by AP. He inquired about payment for photos taken of the dig and was told that AP does not pay for photos.

UPDATEThe Australian ups the ante on irresponsible coverage of the discovery. Read about it here.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

Henry BechtoldHo Chi Minh City is racing towards the future at breakneck speed. But there are some who have dedicated themselves to remembering and preserving the city’s past. In this five-part supplement to January’s Urban Archaeology feature, contributing editor Thomas Maresca profiles the self-made historians who helped us piece the puzzle together.

Return to the Scene

After the French colonial period, the tumultuous years of the American War followed quickly and left their imprint on the cityscape. In the United States, the conflict remains as a scar on the American psyche, and more than a few veterans who served here would just as soon forget.

However, for some others, their time in Saigon as young men touched something else in them—a fascination with the place and the people, and a wish, perhaps latent for decades, to someday come back.

Henry Bechtold, who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was drafted and came to Vietnam in 1967, spending most of his time in Long Binh.

“When we went home, no one wanted to talk about the war. We just kind of put it away somewhere,” says Bechtold.

But Bechtold could never entirely close that door. He finally made his first trip back in 2001, without much  of a plan and just a couple of Internet pen-pals as contacts. Looking back on his return, he says he instantly wished he had come sooner.

That first trip inspired him to come back for another five visits. During these trips, Bechtold has tracked down some of the places he remembered from the war years and become a collector of memorabilia and photographs and an amateur historian, avidly searching out locations on old maps and photos and using Google Earth to locate them. His website, www.henrybechtold.freewebspace.com, has become a repository for his images, stories and impressions of Vietnam.

One thing Bechtold has discovered while developing his website is that he isn’t alone among veterans in his love for Vietnam: “So many people wrote, saying, ‘I can’t believe someone else loves Vietnam like me.'”

Bechtold made his most recent trip this past October and stayed through December. He says it won’t be his last.

“My wife keeps thinking I’m going to get it out of my system,” he jokes.

See the next post in the series: Fond Memories