The Gleaners and the Ghillies is a series of three photographs. In this series, we interrogate the Vietnamese inheritance of French colonialism, specifically the Beaux Arts tradition. We take Jean Francois Millet's painting The Gleaners (1857) as a starting point. In this work, Millet elevates the plight of the working class as the Vietnamese socialist propaganda campaigns continue to do now. In a playful hacking of the original, in the photographs we will be replacing the "haystacks" in Millet's painting with young students in customized ghillies.
Ghillies are specialized uniforms for military snipers that allow almost seamless camouflage into surrounding environments. However, they look absolutely ridiculous when not used in the context of combat and appearing instead like "big foot" or walking haystacks, and even have a design precursor in the Japanese straw rain coats of Hiroshige’s time. In addition to the reconstruction of Millet’s painting, we will create scenes at a construction site (where one might find today's Vietnamese gleaners) and a market. The ghillies draw attention to a contradiction in levels of comfortability: the more deliberately one tries to synthesize into an environment or situation, the more often they run the risk of standing out.
The Gleaners and the Ghillies has been exhibited in different location, notably in the exhibition, Coffee, Cigarettes and Pad Thai, curated by Eugene Tan and in the 4th Guangzhou Triennale curated by Margaret Zhang. In each of the exhibitions, the work was displayed in different dimensions and materials. The edition is for the 120 x 80 cm unframed photographs (as exhibited in Taiwan) and the larger aluminum mounted photographs as artist prints were displayed in China.
4th Guangzhou Triennial, China
Eslite Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
120 x 80 cm. Edition of 3