The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday May 28th

Huong Ngo explores social issues through art

Artist brings wit, charm to work

Huong Ngo is a keeper of dreams.

The 2001 UNC alumna, a multi-platform performance and visual artist, shared stories of her Dream Machine — a telephone hot line that records and shares dreams with random callers — and other socially conscious art projects Tuesday at Hanes Art Center.

Her lecture was a part of the Hanes Visiting Artist Lecture series, which invites four artists each semester to speak about their work.

Cary Levine, an assistant professor of contemporary art history, said the series is a good opportunity for students to interact with established artists.

“It’s a central program for the studio side of the art department,” Levine said.

Ngo began her lecture with a performance in the John and June Allcott Gallery.

Ngo’s piece, “Your Flying Machines,” will be featured in the gallery until March 15th.

Ngo and UNC art professor Hong-An Truong sat at desks with their backs to the crowd and read a transcript of a recorded conversation between President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger from 1972.

All of the pronouns were inverted from the original transcript, in which the men discussed American bombings during the Vietnam War.

Two black fabric orbs, created by Ngo, inflated and deflated on either side of the speakers as cameras recorded the action.

A more traditional lecture followed the performance. Ngo explained her previous and ongoing projects, which include everything from hazmat suits made of orange craft felt to audio and video clips.

Truong said she has collaborated with Ngo before and that Ngo’s work is a good representation of contemporary art.

“She’s not bound by one specific medium, and that is indicative of what contemporary art is like now,” Truong said.

As a UNC undergraduate, Ngo created a project in which she traced out people’s proposed childhood dream careers on the floor of Hanes Art Center.

“I started going around campus and asking people what they used to want to be when they grew up,” Ngo said.

Sand was used in an effort to utilize recyclable materials, Ngo said.

The orange felt hazmat suit project came out of Ngo’s experiences in graduate school in Chicago.

She photographed her husband wearing the suit in several places throughout the city and created posters from the photographs combined with sayings about survival.

“One thing I was very sensitive to was living in a big city and feeling isolated and alienated,?Ngo said.

Although Ngo’s projects often touch on social issues, her lighthearted approach makes her art accessible.

“I really like laughing and I think humor is a powerful thing in our world,” Ngo said. “It’s a sneaky way to approach these really big subjects.”

Contact the Arts Editor at arts@dailytarheel.com.

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