Dinh Q. Lê. Collecting Impulse

Dinh Q. Lê in his studio near Saigon, ca. 2013.
asian man working on floor with long photographic strips
Dinh Q. Lê in his studio near Saigon, ca. 2013. Photo by Ruben Luong. Courtesy ArtAsiaPacific.

Dinh Q. Lê has amassed an archive including some “200 kilos”1 of found photographs, a collection of watercolors and drawings by artists in the Northern Vietnamese army, Vietnamese ceramics, and antiques from Southeast Asia dating back two thousand years. While his collecting interests often develop into artworks—including Light and Belief (2012) and Crossing the Farther Shore (2014)—for Lê, collecting objects “is a way to connect to a longer history.”2 Born in 1968 in Hà Tiên, a small town in the south of Vietnam near the border with Cambodia, he grew up with objects passed from generation to generation. He and his family left everything behind when they escaped in 1978 for Thailand and immigrated as refugees to the United States in 1979. In 1994 Lê began going back regularly to Vietnam and Southeast Asia, collecting objects along the way. When he moved back permanently in 1997, his collections—such as the works on paper by Viet Cong artists—became a mode through which he learned about the country’s lesser-known histories and the voices marginalized by dominant historical narratives.

  1. Dinh Q. Lê, in an interview with Moira Roth, October 28, 2017–March 9, 2018, in Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return, ed. Rory Padeken (San José, CA: San José Museum of Art, 2019), 23. ↩︎

  2. Dinh Q. Lê, in an interview with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, in Dinh Q. Lê (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2012), 3. ↩︎