NON Berlin is please to present Foibles of a Reconstruction, the first solo exhibition of the Vietnamese-American artist Trong Gia Nguyen in Berlin. The artist assembles a series of installations and works that consider the fragmentation of a larger collective psyche, associating it with notions of structural decline and the breakdown of communication. At a deeper root, the works examine where power is gain and lost. Whether starting from populist nativism or poetic verse, what cannot be understood leads to alienation and fear, and even a disconnection with empathy and humanity, ultimately resulting in the extremities of cultural polarization and brute violence.

The central components of the exhibition are two site-specific architectural installations that directly consider the debate around current Covid travel passports for vaccinated travellers. Utilizing the two electronic codes – one a QR code and the other a UPC or bar code – issued to him for his two Pfizer vaccination appointments, Nguyen transforms the digital stamps into structures that evoke the universality of that language, and also the opaque nature of their unreadability to the human mind. 07/05/2021 – 11:15 is a 5x5m floor-sized QR code formed by black and white ceramic tiles placed on a raised floor in NON’s back gallery. The unwieldy scale of the pattern makes it impossible to be scanned within the NON space. By walking across

this floor, one’s tracks physically impede the tracking code. Operating as a companion piece to the floor tiles is 11/06/2021 – 10:42, a line of vertical wood planks cut to variable widths that is partially sheathed in gypsum panels, revealing a wall that allows entry on the sides while blockading part of the NON space. The gypsum panels have been diagonally cut away, leaving a landscape-like panorama of incompleteness to the visible studs that form the barcode. As physical impediments in the space, they confront the viewer in a way that is relatable to the domestic sphere, where one finds comfort and familiarity.

Other works in the exhibition similarly navigate the viewer towards a moment of self-reflection against silver and black mirrors, contending with everything from gun violence and political corruption, to digital data, internalized racism, and the frailty of language. Blunt works like framed 3D printed gun parts contrast against the intricacy of a video such as The Tyger, a meditative, 22-minute video depicting the hand of the artist writing William Blake’s poem of the same name. Except rather than utilizing paper, Nguyen writes on grains of rice, one word for each kernel. The written word, in the form of a letter or digital icon, all attempt the same thing – to communicate, even as it is consistently interrupted.

Yet it is the soft space where miscommunication occurs that most interests Nguyen. The path provided by the artist is fraught with confrontation and reflection, calling into question, as the CoVid vaccines do, the right to movement and its obstruction. Where information is lost or successfully conveyed, this is where power accrues, if indeed knowledge is power.


Trong Gia Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American artist based in Brussels, Belgium. He has exhibited internationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions including: Anthology for Beginners (Solo), La Patinoire Royale ‘ Galerie Valerie Bach (Brussels, Belgium, 2021); My Myopia (Solo), Cornell Fine Arts Museum (Florida, USA, 2018); California Pacific Triennial, Orange County Museum of Art (California, USA, 2018); The Foliage, Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (Hanoi, Vietnam, 2017); The Others, Piazzale Valdo Fusi (Torino, Italy, 2015); Eye on the Storm, Housatonic Museum of Art (Connecticut, USA, 2013); Satellites in the Night, Freies Museum, (Berlin, Germany, 2010), The Sixth Borough (New Yor, USA, 2010); Sequences, (Reykjavik, Iceland, 2008); and Performa 05, Artists Space (New York, USA, 2005).

Trong has received grants and residencies from the Museum of Arts & Design (NY), Artist in Residence in the Everglades (FL), Gate 27 (Istanbul, Turkey), LegalArt Miami (FL), LMCC (NY), FabLab (CA), Harvestworks Digital Media Center (NY), Bronx Museum of the Arts (NY), Puffin Foundation (NJ), among others. As a curator, Trong has organized over 25 exhibitions. From 2005-07 he founded and directed New General Catalog, a gallery in Brooklyn, NY that was devoted to showing experimental work by emerging and underserved artists. He has served on the advisory boards of organizations that include Fashion in Film Festival, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, and Florence Artist in Residence (FAiR). Trong has also guest-lectured and serve on discussion panels at Art Stage Singapore, CUE Foundation (New York, USA), School of Visual Arts (New York, USA), Columbia University (New York, USA), Catalyst Foundation (Washington, DC, USA), Reykjavik Art Academy (Iceland), Riga Center for Contemporary Art (Latvia), Goethe Institut (Hanoi, Vietnam), and many others.

Phuong Phan is a Vietnamese-German independent researcher and curator based in Berlin, Germany. She uses exhibition as her research method to analyse the nature of power, the foundation of its legitimacy and the relationship between arts and politics. Currently, she works as a researcher assistant at Gropius Bau and pursues her PhD in Social-Anthropology at University Bielefeld. In her research project, she deals with the social life and transformation of Propaganda Posters in the Socialist Republic Vietnam from the Cold War to current days.

Trong Gia Nguyen: Cracked Mobile #5, 2019, iron, enamel, gypsum, wood 240 x 166 x 13.3 cm © Trong Gia Nguyen

Trong Gia Nguyen: In Case Of Genius Destabilizing, 2018, 3D printed firearm parts from plan found on the Internet, PLA plastic, metal, fabric upholstery, etched plexi, painted wood frame Unique, 31.1 x 40.6 x 8.9 cm © Trong Gia Nguyen

Trong Gia Nguyen: Still from The Tyger, 2021, HD Video © Trong Gia Nguyen

Friday, 3 September 2021, 7pm

Duration: 21 Opening hours:

Trong Gia Nguyen

Phuong Phan

Curatorial Management
Chansook Choi

Organized by
NON Berlin, Asia contemporary art platform

Supported by

Friday, 3 September 2021, 7pm

Duration: 4-26 September 2021
Opening hours: Thu - Sun, 2 - 7 pm

Trong Gia Nguyen

NON Berlin

Phuong Phan

Curatorial Management
Chansook Choi