Flatland

1998 - ongoing

Flatland I - CXVIII, Silkscreen, laser engraved wood veneer, acrylic and pencil on paper, 35 x 46 in. (88.9 x 116.8 cm)

Source Material

Stop motion video of “Flatland” being installed at Monserrat College of Art, September 2010.

 

Presenting a world askew, the Flatland series utilizes silk-screening, laser engraved wood veneer and hand coloring to depict landscapes in a broad sense of the term against a backdrop of white, silver or black. This body of work illustrates a symphony of forces in opposition—concealment and exposure, destruction and recovery, chaos and order, brutality and humaneness. A variety of media including natural history catalogs, botany encyclopedias, maps, Soviet space photographs, math textbooks, architectural blueprints, Arabic mosaics, newspaper clippings and more, lend themselves to the imagery in these works. These images are arranged according to a visual syntax akin to the dreamscapes of the cosmos taken by a satellite, suggesting a moment when space is closer than ever and when man and machine begin to meld into one. Elements from nature in addition to architectural or industrial forms overlap and approach from all directions as though propelled by their own gravity. Strange shapes of meticulously engraved wood in various tones render impossible structures while seemingly giving birth to machines. Blooming with a dynamism edging on implosion, this series invites viewers to peer into this fantastical world and explore its intricate imagery, layering and textures. 

 

The constant battle played over in my head between memory and reality, particularly that of a distinct landscape that has been displaced, informs the sense of isolation and distortion described in my work. Our present psychological reality combines memory, desire and uncertainty with the illusion of space and the physicality of surface. Because the West has forcefully colonized Vietnam since the 16th century, my memory of the Vietnam landscape is forever entwined with the legacy of war. In an attempt to sift Vietnam’s own Eastern characteristics from the efforts of Western colonization, Flatland brings these two visual languages together. The lush green fields of Da Nang provide a stage for visions of napalm exploding in the sky. As the works unfold, they describe the majesty of the landscape interwoven with the hideous beauty of power and destruction.

 

The nightmarish vision of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1515) as well as postmodern and poststructuralist theories of the destabilization of fixed meaning influence the root of my work. Theorists such as Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes underscore the conjunct entities of memory and imagination, a concept examined in my work. Flatland references artificial intelligence and the fear of an uncontrolled revolt of machines against their creators, pointing to sources such as The Last Man on Earth (1964), Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny” (1919) and the Frankenstein complex coined by Isaac Asimov. The title of this series refers to “flatness” as defined in Thomas L. Friedmann’s The World Is Flat, a book that examines the advantages of living in a globalized age, and Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, a book that describes life in the second dimension. In this body of work, popular culture, theory, landscape, technology and war intermingle, collide and mangle each other to demonstrate the eternal contrast of man versus machine, organic versus inorganic.

 

Flatland synthesizes an unquantifiable and ever-growing mass of information into an impression of lived experience. Projecting a future landscape these works describe my vision of the human species as being thoroughly in flux, floating on the cusp of a supernova or as passengers on a ship hurtling through the void.

 

_IMG_0920

Installation at Sonoma State University, 2012

_

_IMG_4639

_IMG_4640

Installation at Monserrat College of Art, 2010

_DSC_2575

_IMG_1707

Installation at RedLine, Milwaukee, WI, 2009

_DSC5435

_Tomas Vu black