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Datei 12. Danh Vo, JULY,IV,MDCCLXXVI, 2011. Installation view Kunsthalle Fridericianum with 41QSCI11279008, 2011, and HS341, 2011. Photo: Nils Klinger
With JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI, Danh Vo shifts the focus of his artistic investigations to the concept of freedom. The title designates 4 July 1776, the date of the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The writing in Roman numerals is taken from the tablet that the figure of New York’s Statue of Liberty is holding in her left hand. Since 1886, Miss Liberty has symbolized the hope of a better life for refugees and immigrants arriving in New York. She is the most important emblem of freedom and independence, which Danh Vo absorbs. Based on the dimensions of the original and its copper weight of some 31 tons, Vo had a replica of the Statue of Liberty made which forms the main part of JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI. He calls the gigantic sculpture WE THE PEOPLE, reciting the first three words of the preamble to the United States’ Constitution of 17 September 1787. But the monumentality of the statue is immediately qualified: the sculpture is dissected into its individual parts and thus abstracted. In his recreation, Vo concentrates on reproducing the thin copper skin (the iron scaffolding supporting the figure is missing), which gives WE THE PEOPLE a special fragility. The broken icon, the destroyed allegorical figure of Libertas, forms a strong counterpoint to the massive materiality. The confrontation with physical mass contrasts with a spatial openness in the ground floor, where Danh Vo steers attention to a striking found piece: the original typewriter on which Theodore Kaczynski wrote the Unabomber’s Manifesto. Kaczynski, a university professor and terrorist, who carried out bomb attacks in the USA for 18 years, waged a personal battle against so-called leftism, industrial society and its belief in progress. In 1995 he anonymously sent a manifesto, a detailed, pseudo-philosophical critique of civilization entitled Industrial Society and its Future, to the New York Times and the Washington Post. In the text he offered to stop the attacks if the newspapers published his manifesto. Shortly after the text appeared, Kacyznski was found in a small cabin in the mountains of Montana and arrested. Recently this cabin as well as its contents were auctioned by the FBI. Exhibiting objects based on the ready-made principle is a characteristic artistic strategy of Danh Vo. The objects Vo selects are multilayered bearers of meaning which he uses to tell stories and disclose relationships. They always contain a complex political and poetic system with which the artist perceptively links art and life. The exhibition in Kassel also involves a widely branching narrative strand, which, starting from the concept of freedom, explores failed political, social and personal aims, takes up issues of self-determination and responsibility, and extends the definition of guilt and innocence.
Exclusively accompanying JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI, an edition under the title Season's Greetings by Danh Vo is being brought out which is closely tied to the exhibition. In an edition of 24 copies, the artist compiled found objects, each of which refers to a work in the Kassel exhibition. The hand-made wooden boxes each contain a first- edition copy of the book "Harvard and the Unabomber – The Education of an American Terrorist", a T-shirt from the Statue of Liberty souvenir shop in New York, a cup from the "George Bush Library and Museum", with a quote by Barbara Bush printed on it, as well as an index card on which the title of the show – the date of the American Declaration of Independence – was typed on the typewriter used by Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.The edition is available at Kunsthalle Fridericianum for the price of 500,- € each.
Danh Vo was born in Vietnam in 1975 and grew up in Denmark. He studied at the Royal Art Academy in Copenhagen and at Städelschule in Frankfurt. He currently lives and works in Berlin. Among his most recent solo exhibitions are Hip Hip Hurra at the SMK, the National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen and Autoerotic Asphyxiation at the Artists Space in New York (both in 2010); in 2009 Les Fleurs d'Interieur at the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris and at the same time Where the Lions Are at Kunsthalle Basel; in 2008 Package Tour at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and The valley (a project for the art magazine Frieze, in collaboration with Dominic Eichler). In 2007 he showed Untitled at Brandenburgischer Kunstverein in Potsdam, and in 2005 Dreams and Expectations at the gallery No.5 at Bergen Kunsthall. After his exhibition at Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, Danh Vo is going to have solo presentations at the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2012) and at Kunsthaus Bregenz (2013). Danh Vo participated in a variety of international group exhibitions such as the Singapore Biennale, based in Berlin and You are not alone at Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona. In 2010 he was part of the Gwangju Biennale and of the 6th Berlin Biennale as well as of the group shows Strange Comfort at Kunsthalle Basel and at Istituto Svizzero, Rome; in 2009 Vo was part of Morality at Witte de With in Rotterdam and of the exhibition of the nominees for Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin; moreover he exhibited at the Manifesta 7 in Trentino-South Tyrol in 2008 and at Oh boy it's a girl at Kunstverein München in 2007. Furthermore Danh Vo will participate in the 2010 New Museum Triennial in New York.