Lida Abdul from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Dinh Q Lé from Ha-Tien, Vietnam, use video to explore the shifting memory of trauma and the inevitable resilience of life. Drawing on recent histories of conflict and destruction, both artists returned to their native countries to explore societies in transition. After leaving Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in 1987 and subsequent years of living in India and the West, Abdul currently divides her time between Los Angeles and Kabul. In Afghanistan she has created a series of short performance-based videos staged among the ruins of her homeland. In “Bricksellers of Kabul” (2006) and her most recent work, “In Transit” (2008), children retrieve the debris of war and turn them into objects for survival and play. For Abdul, children and their imaginative acts embody the simplicity of hope amidst devastation.
Similarly, Dinh Q Lé returned to Vietnam to examine his own memories of the war within the context of contemporary Vietnamese society. For Lé, who grew up in the United States, the Vietnam War is an amalgamation of distant childhood memories, documentary materials, and Hollywood films. In “The Farmers and the Helicopters” (2006), he focuses on the helicopter both as a “death machine” and as a technological dream. Inspired by the actual story of a Vietnamese farmer who attempted to reconstruct his own helicopter from wartime remains, Lé uses the multichannel video format to juxtapose contemporary interviews and images of the rural landscape with film footage to reveal more complex narratives surrounding memories of conflict in a changing postwar Vietnam.