Critics’ Picks

View of “Đặng Thùy Anh,” 2019–2020. On ground: Waiting, 2019–; On wall: Melts into air, 2018–2019.

View of “Đặng Thùy Anh,” 2019–2020. On ground: Waiting, 2019–; On wall: Melts into air, 2018–2019.

Ho Chi Minh City

Đặng Thuý Anh

The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre
15 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, Thảo Điền Ward, District 2
November 8, 2019–January 19, 2020

The golden apple snail lays its artificially pink, spherical eggs vertically; its embryonic clumps defy gravity. In Đặng Thuỳ Anh’s new multimedia installations, spread across two galleries, this bizarrely cute creature forms an unlikely counterpoint to the effects of industrial and urban modernization on the artist’s family home in Hanoi, where decades-old, horizontally oriented communal homes will soon give way to comparatively impersonal glass and steel skyscrapers. It is in the latter’s grubby construction sites that these seemingly feeble snails thrive.

Framed by hypnotic silver Perspex wallpaper, All that is solid, 2019, comprises Vertical Day, a three-channel video, as well as Drifting, an in-wall aquarium with live apple snails, debris, and found objects, salvaged from construction sites in Saigon and Hanoi, near Đặng’s home. The snails have bred, making this murky, overcrowded tank their temporary home. A video of the mollusks laying eggs is projected on a nearby wall, while two looped recordings of everyday phenomena like falling rain and an escalator’s ridged panels intensify the installation’s giddying displacement of place and time.

For Melts into air, 2018–19, Đặng plastered the walls of a gallery with nearly three thousand ID-size photographs of newly born apple snails. Waiting, 2019–, a six-by-six grid of epoxy-resin cubes in which apple snail eggs are suspended, rests on the ground while a scavenged rusty iron sheet, typically used to bar pedestrians from entering construction sites, safeguards this makeshift incubator. The snails’ visceral forms crack these facades of regimented regularity. Their cloud-like eggs, unevenly and arbitrarily dispersed, are palpably eager to break out of their petrified state, and the ID photos are far from standardized: Each infant snail oozes its own organic particularities. Despite titling her sleek artworks after Marshall Berman’s 1982 thesis on modernity, Đặng chooses to narrate epochal transformations of personal and collective memory through an idiosyncratic, diminutive mollusk, the most unassuming of protagonists.