Article 14.1: Phuong Ngo brings his parent’s refugee journey to Sydney Festival 2019
Featured photo credit: Alex Clayton
In an ongoing interrogation of his parents’ experiences as Vietnamese refugees, Melbourne artist Phuong Ngo will be bringing his highly successful 10-day durational performance of Article 14.1 to the Museum of Contemporary Art for Sydney Festival 2019 from January 14 to 23.
Having been brought up listening to stories of the time his parents fled Vietnam in 1981, the performance explores a clause taken from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” – Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14.1
“The performance ties itself to international law, but it also looks at the fallout and what it means to flee one’s country from a personal experience, but also through expanded storytelling,” Phuong explains.
Article 14.1 is about expanding that personal narrative into something a lot bigger.
Over the duration of the ten days, Phuong will be living in the space on the same rations his parents did on their journey to Malaysia, including preserved rice, condensed milk, dried packet noodles, sugar cane and water.
The performance is made up of multiple other components, and audience members are encouraged to sit down with Phuong, fold paper boats and listen to a compilation of audio recordings of others who have shared their stories of fleeing Vietnam.
“We will be folding paper boats out of hell money which is a type of joss paper burnt for the dead,” Phuong said.
“The boat folding is to memorialise those who have passed, and when the ten-day period is up, I leave the space, we take the boats outside and we burn them in honour of those who were lost at sea.”
Photo credit: Eugyeene Teh
Phuong has performed Article 14.1 twice previously, the first time in Melbourne as part of the Next Wave Festival, and the second in Belgium as part of the MONS 2015 European Capital of Culture program.
Each performance has brought an entirely different experience, however, what has remained the same for Phuong is the audiences’ willingness to share their own experiences of displacement with him.
“Initially, I was meant to sit in silence for the full ten days, but we learnt off the bat that was going to be impossible because people come in and they want to share their stories with me and they want me to share my story with them,” he said.
“I’m really quite shocked at the beautiful responses to the work because I am quite a pessimist when it comes down to it.
It has really made me think about the transformative nature of art and what it can do in the context and the many different ways that it can be read and understood.
Photo credit: Eugyeene Teh
Article 14.1 – Sydney Festival 2019
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
When: January 14-23, 2019 (Boat Burning Ceremony on January 23 at 6pm)