The Last State is Vietnamese artist Trong Gia Nguyen’s first solo exhibition in Bangkok.
The exhibition will feature a single installation titled Neo-Theo, which was originally exhibited on Governor’s Island, New York as part of the exhibition The Sixth Borough (2012).
Neo-Theo is said to examine the “precarious intersection of religion, nationalism, and selective amnesia. Layering histories and visual cues, the patriotic symbolism within the piece has acquired new meaning in the current political climate.”
The first component of Neo-Theo is a an American flag with its colours muted from the tones of gray painted on it. The words “help me” are creased into the fabric, as the flag sits on a dais in the center of the room. The text supposedly hints at the constitutional First Amendment’s plea for separation of church and state.
School children in America recite a pledge daily before classes. They are told to stand up, face the flag, place one hand over their heart and recite the following: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The second component sees the flag surrounded by numerous photographs of gesturing hands. Referencing both fascism and the original salutation for the “Pledge of Allegiance,” as written and prescribed by Francis Bellamy in 1892. The hands are directed at the flag, “in compliance and conversation with it.” The original hand placement was not covering the heart, but rather the familiar fascist salute of one arm extended outward and upward, with palm open. That salute was changed in 1942, during WWII, when its likeness to the throngs of Germans hailing their Fuhrer were only too obvious.
The third part of Neo-Theo is a looping, eerie soundtrack of children reciting Bellamy’s original words, which did not include “under God”, added only in 1954 as a Cold War response.
The press release adds, “In our golden age of ill-informed citizens, fake news and fake religious piety, Neo-Theo recalls that it is not religion’s responsibility to breed tolerance or protect an individual’s liberties, but the law’s duty. The altered flag, even in this theologically possessed and desecrated state, but fully reversible, challenges the hypocritical conscience of the idiot-patriot state.”
The opening reception is on Dec 1 at 5pm.