Diane Severin Nguyen’s Transfigurations | Art21 "New York Close Up"

Diane Severin Nguyen’s Transfigurations | Art21 "New York Close Up"

Fingernails, karaoke YouTubers, grass jelly, make-up tutorials, and anti-war anthems all find themselves colliding in the work of artist Diane Severin Nguyen. Collecting the dust and detritus from our heads and our homes, Nguyen creates lush photographs and videos that question the divides between trashy and intellectual, organic and fake, alienating and intimate. Mirroring the visual abundance of its subject’s artworks, this short film is a portrait of a uniquely wide-ranging photographer and filmmaker as she works in her Lower East Side studio.

Crucial for Nguyen’s work is our contemporary experience of social media and the Internet. Its endless production of images and text is both a massive archive for her to draw from and a creative model for generating a new, open-ended visual language. In her video works “Tyrant Star” (2019) and “If Revolution Is A Sickness” (2021), Nguyen appropriates, remixes and synthesizes disparate cultural materials like Vietnamese folk poetry, anti-war anthems, and “K-Pop” music to mine what is discovered in their difference.

Another kind of creative alchemy happens in her studio where the artist choreographs ephemeral processes like burning and everyday substances like styrofoam to make her enigmatic photographs. Intentionally obscuring the identity of her subject materials is core to the artist’s larger project. Says Nguyen, “I try to work against that impulse to identify and get more towards a place of feeling…The moment that you speak or communicate, there's already mediation. There's something that's about intimacy that is actually more important than knowing.”

Learn more about the artist at: https://art21.org/artist/diane-severin-nguyen/

CREDITS | "New York Close Up" Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director & Producer: Jessica Kingdon, Nathan Truesdell. Editor: Jessica Kingdon, Nathan Truesdell. Cinematography & Sound: Jessica Kingdon, Nathan Truesdell. Additional Camera: Brian Ashby. Color Correction: Cédric von Niederhäusern. Sound Design & Mix: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Design & Graphics: Chips. Music: Ryder Bach, Trevor New. Artwork Courtesy: Diane Severin Nguyen. Thanks: Lynn Do, Margaret Kross, Hannah Park, Angelina Pei, Renaissance Society, SculptureCenter.

"New York Close Up" is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by individual contributors.

Digital exhibition of "New York Close Up" films is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Translated subtitles are generously contributed by our volunteer translation community.

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"New York Close Up" series
Format: Youtube Primary Original Synced
This video is part of the Art21 team.

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