The Mizuma Art Gallery of Tokyo is showcasing artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s ongoing project Breathing is Free: 12,756.3 at Art Positions in Art Basel Miami Beach 2009. This complex and meaningful project is a statement on the current condition of the refugee and, in Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s words, a ‘reflection and offering to the refugees whose lives are to run or to perish’. As an artist with resources and a passport, Nguyen-Hatsushiba is part of the global elite, whose mobility effortlessly enables movement across national borders. Through his step and sustained mental and physical discipline the artist physically embodies the desire and struggle of the powerless refugee that is on the move and longs, as the artist notes, ‘to be on “the other side” instead.’
The work is defined not only by Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s act of running, but by the deliberately plotted path the artist takes which crosses any national and ethnic divisions. In his effort to run 12,756.3 miles – equivalent to the most direct circumference of the earth – Nguyen-Hatsushiba chooses urban areas with a history of forced displacement. The artist has completed runs in places such as Geneva, Tokyo, Singapore, Manchester and Ho Chi Minh City. The paths taken in each of these places forms a shape – often organic – with metaphorical meaning.
On view in the Mizuma Art Gallery booth at Art Basel Miami Beach is video footage from a selection of Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s runs paired with ‘earth drawings’ or ‘running drawings’ which map his route from an aerial perspective. These ‘drawings’ are actually lambda prints created by transposing GPS data of his movements onto aerial photographs of each of the cities chosen for the project. These GPS transfer prints reveal the symbolic shapes formed by the path of his runs.
Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s film The Ground, the Root, and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree from 2004-2007 (single channel video, 14 min, 30 sec) is also on view. This video explores globalization and resulting loss of tradition in Luang Prabang, Laos. The image of the runner, an empty stadium, the lantern, the Mekong River and the Bodhi tree serve as symbols of this economic change – as well as hope for the future.
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba has shown internationally and can be found in important collections such as the Centre Pompidou and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He received his BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Nguyen-Hatsushiba currently lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. His current project for Breathing is Free: 12,756.3 is set in Chicago.
Art Basel Miami Beach ends 6 December 2009.