Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam Towards the Complex — For the Courageous, the Curious and the Cowards

Black and white still featuring cyclo drivers pushing empty rickshaws on the ocean floor

Video still, Jun Nugyen-Hatsushiba, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba Memorial Project NHA Trang, Vietnam Towards The Complex - For The Courageous, The Curious and The Cowards, 2001. Photo courtesy the artist.

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Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba
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Filmed on location in Vietnam’s IndoChina Sea, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s film focuses on the lives of Vietnamese cyclo drivers.

Cyclos are human-powered rickshaws used to transport goods and people in Vietnam. This cheap means of transportation has provided a source of income for many of those unemployed as a result of the country’s reunification. Modernization, however, has made these vehicles, which are good for the environment but slow moving and old-fashioned, unwelcome on Vietnamese city streets; and the government has banned further production of cyclos. This remarkable video depicts a number of young men struggling to propel cyclos across the rock-strewn, sandy, ocean bottom. Working in teams, they pull, push, and pedal the passengerless vehicles; and periodically they must rush up to the surface for air or risk drowning. The water grows deeper; the boulders get larger; the trip to the surface takes longer; and the task is increasingly arduous. Finally, the drivers abandon their cyclos, and swim together toward an underwater “city” composed of tents made from white netting strung between boulders, a metaphor, perhaps, for the many Vietnamese boat people drowned in the aftermath of the war. The clear blue water, sunlight dappling the ocean floor, and gentle flute music composed by Quoc Bao and Nguyen-Hatsushiba, again provide stark contrast in this all-too-real metaphor for this endangered way of life.

13-minute DVD projection originally commissioned for the 2001 Yokohama Triennale of Contemporary Art, Japan.

Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba was born in Japan in 1968. He now lives and works in Vietnam. He was educated in the United States at Brookhaven College, Dallas, TX; The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; and the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Mount Royal School of Art, Baltimore, MD.