Tuan Andrew Nguyen: The Island

February 21 - April 7, 2018 | Los Angeles

Tuan Andrew - Bidong -7656.jpeg

The Mistake Room is pleased to present the West Coast premiere of Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s (b. 1976, Vietnam) The Island (2017)The film was shot entirely on Pulau Bidong, an island off the coast of Malaysia that became the largest and longest-operating refugee camp after the Vietnam War. The artist and his family were some of the 250,000 people who inhabited the small island between 1978 and 1991. After the UN High Commissioner for Refugees closed the camp the jungle began to devour many of the man-made structures--leaving behind crumbling monuments and relics. 

Set in a dystopian future, Nguyen casts the island as both a character and a precarious place of refuge— this time, for the sole survivors of a world-consuming nuclear war. A man who stayed behind after the refugee camp on the island was closed encounters a scientist who is washed ashore after surviving the nuclear war. The characters grapple with their existence and their responsibilities to both the past and future. Their exchanges become charged metaphors for the contradictory condition that shapes many refugees--for the necessity to remember and honor a traumatic past while ensuring it does not overwhelm the possibilities of a different future. Interspersed with archival news footage of the Vietnamese refugee crisis and recordings of people who once called the island home, the film lyrically displaces the anxieties and investments of the present with a sweeping cinematic vision that, like the waters surrounding the titular land-mass, both envelopes and rejects; transports and entraps; brings home, and sets adrift. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, TMR will organize a one day symposium on March 31, 2018, that will explore Tuan's practice and more broadly, contemporary art and cultural production in post-war Vietnam. 


Tuan Andrew Nguyen: The Island is organized by The Mistake Room and curated by Cesar Garcia, TMR's Executive and Artistic Director. 



Tuan Andrew Nguyen graduated from the Fine Arts program at UC Irvine in 1999 and received his MFA from CalArts in 2004. He is a co-founder of Sàn Art, an artist-initiated exhibition space and educational program in Sai Gon, Viet Nam. Nguyen has shown in numerous film festivals, internationl exhibitions, having works in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery, Carre d'Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum. Nguyen has received several awards in both film and arts, including an Art Matters grant in 2010. His work explores the body as sites and and as moments of resistance in public space and the impact of mass media on these moments of resistance. In his continual attempts at reworking the power dynamics of public space and mass media in general, he founded The Propeller Group in 2006, an art collective who positions themselves between a fake advertising company and archeologists of hidden historical conundrums. Accolades for the collective include the main prize at the 2015 Internationale Kurztfilmtage Wintherthur and a Creative Capital award for their video project Television Commercial for Communism. The collective has been featured in numerous international exhibitions including the Venice Biennale (2015); Prospect3, New Orleans (2014); Made in LA 2012, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012); and The Ungovernables, New Museum (2012). 

Support for this exhibition is provided by Colección Diéresis, Guadalajara, Mexico.

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by The Mistake Room's Board of Directors, Big Mistake Patron Group, International Council, and Contemporary Council.