”Me Chong” Exhibition
16 Jan – 19 Feb 2022
38 Botany Rd, Alexandria NSW 2015, Australia
From the organizer:
George Burchett lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he was born.
But what are we to make of his art artwork, an offering of Me Chong (Viet-namese mother-in-laws)? Is this the first world commodification of a third world stereotype as a kind of P.C. Barbie Doll? Or sentimentality for a place George proudly claims as home – the place he is wedded to?
In my opinion it’s the latter. And from comments that pepper his emails – “Hope the mothers-in-law behave” … “Mothers-in-law can be fickle” … “@ SLOT, the mothers-in-law hop out of the box and onto the shelves in their al-located 8 x 8 formation (They can do a little dance and sing)… At night, they hop off the shelves and spread around town.” – he has invested animate powers in them.
It is crucial to George that his show coincide with Tet, the Vietnamese New Year celebration on February 1 that in Australian history marks the turning point of the Vietnam War, the bloody end of European colonialism in South East Asia. The same colonialism proposed a much more poetic, albeit equally exploitative, beginning. The Dutch in Batavia, the Spanish in Manila, the Brit-ish in Singapore and the French in Hanoi built gracious cities that offered a languid life style far removed from the imperatives of The Hague, Madrid, London and Paris. This is the Hanoi that George is thinking of. He may also recall that his show coincides with the Australia Day celebration on January 26. Each holiday celebrates an engagement with colonialism. It’s coming and it’s going. Through the best of colonialism there is a shared understanding of place, language and history. It is a conduit to global culture. It promotes “cross-cultural vitality”. And perhaps the job of the animate Me Chong George has given us is to whisper to each of us in our sleep that nationalism and it’s mirror, xenophobia have become, like colonialism, a romantic anachronism.
Text by Tony Twigg, SLOT Gallery, Sydney, Australia