70 x 105 cm, framed: 75 x 110 x 5 cm
Inv. Nr. 133
Photo: © Florian Kleinefenn
Born in 1975 in Saigon, Vietnam
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany and New York City, New York, USA
Since graduating from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and later from the Städel School in Frankfurt in the early two-thousands, Danh Vo has been using his own life and the history of his family to create installations mostly based on found and borrowed objects that contain historical, cultural or personal anecdotes. His arrangements, somehow mute at first sight, juxtapose these layers of meaning so as to disclose their relationships. His work plays with identity, its loss and its appropriation. The recent developments of Danh Vo’s work do not deal with personal belongings, but instead revolve around a universal icon, the Statue of Liberty, although this still refers to Vo’s own history, marked by exile. As a fact, his family fled Vietnam for the United States on a makeshift boat, was eventually picked up by a Danish cargo, and consequently settled in Denmark. Miss Liberty, certainly the most famous public sculpture, embodied the promise of a free world for all immigrants arriving in the United States, and nowadays it is more generally interpreted as a symbol of Western imperialism.
We Try Harder is part of a series of identical blueprints reproduced from a 1984 sheer plan of the head of the sculpture, found in the archives of the Ellis Island Immigration Library. These facsimiles are peculiar in that they are covered with gold foil, a common technique in sculpture and architecture. Another component of the project is a gigantic installation entitled We The People, made of rebuilt pieces of the Statue of Liberty conform to the scale of its New York version, but scattered around in the exhibition space in order to abstract them from any representative figuration. But the process of fragmentation is highly symbolic: it emphasizes the hazy and unstable meaning of the concept of liberty. The blueprints use the same process: while giving an insight on the construction process of the statue, they are mostly abstract and hardly decipherable drawings. The blue drawings hidden beneath the gold layer almost disappear, echoing the weakening of the American myth.