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The Propeller Group Biography

The Propeller Group was established in 2006 by Phunam Thuc Ha (b. 1974, Saigon, Vietnam) and Tuan Andrew Nguyen (b. 1976, Saigon), who were joined by Matt Lucero (b. 1976, Upland, California) in 2008. Phunam studied sculpture and conservation in Bangkok, Thailand; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and at the École des Beaux Arts, Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen earned a BFA from the University of California, Irvine (1999), and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia (2004), where he met Lucero, who completed his MFA in 2003. Lucero earned a BFA from the University of California, Riverside (2000). Phunam and Nguyen cofounded the artist-run alternative space Sàn Art (Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon) along with Dinh Q. Lê and Tiffany Chung in 2007. The Propeller Group now participates in operating the space.

The Propeller Group makes large-scale collaborative projects in new media, from videos to web-based applications, taking a special interest in mass communication. Applying systems-hacking tactics, they appropriate strategies from advertising, marketing, and the rarefied forms of commodity exchange and display that take place in galleries and museums. Information is their medium and Vietnam is frequently their subject. In Viet Nam the World Tour (VNTWT)

(2010–12), the Propeller Group subjects the nation—its history, culture, and people—to a re-branding campaign. Enlisting street muralists, graffiti artists, hip-hop dancers, and pop musicians, they attempt to propagate a global public image of contemporary Vietnam as fresh, vibrant, and creative. Via promotional videos, performances, a website, and paraphernalia (including t-shirts and stickers), VNTWT exploits the power of pop culture to satirize nationalism.

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To appreciate the Propeller Group’s work is to enter an extended network of aesthetic and cultural production. Their participation in The Unseen (4th Guangzhou Triennial, China, 2012) involved artisans from Dafen, the Chinese village famous for manufacturing reproductions of oil paintings. The Propeller Group invited workers to paint self-portraits in the spirit of emancipated creativity, with their usual product relegated to the background. This premise was adapted from a 2004 project by the group REGIONAL, who are acknowledged in the work’s title, Regional Reproduction: Self-Portraiture and Emerging Artistic Consciousness in Dafen (2012).

The Propeller Group also functions as the production company TPG. In addition to making music videos, multimedia installations, and the occasional commercial, TPG has collaborated with Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê. They also regularly team up with subversive Danish art collective Superflex, coproducing Burning Car (2008), Flooded McDonald’s (2008), Financial Crisis (2009), and Porcelain (2010)—a three-part television series, broadcast in Vietnam, based on a 17th-century shipment of the eponymous ware from Asia to Holland. As the Propeller Group, they cocreated the artwork FADE IN: EXT. STORAGE – CU CHI – DAY (2010), an absurdist short film whose title is here abbreviated from the entire script, which involves customs, cargo, and international shipping. The distinction between the Propeller Group and TPG is as significant as it is spurious, critically reflecting on the shifting relations between art and commerce. According to Nguyen, “Confusion is good. When people are confused, they actually have to think.”¹

The Propeller Group has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Sàn Art and Galerie Quynh in Ho Chi Minh City (2012) and 10 Chancery Lane in Hong Kong (2012). They organized the exhibition Your Name Here in collaboration with Tyke Witnes, a participant in VNTWT, at Sàn Art at L’Usine, Ho Chi Minh City (2010). Notable group exhibitions include Strategies from Within: Vietnamese and Cambodian Contemporary Art, Ke Center, Shanghai (2008); Farewell to Post-Colonialism, 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008); Commercial Break, organized by Garage Projects, exhibited in Venice (2011); The Ungovernables, New Museum Triennial, New York (2012); Made in L.A., Los Angeles Biennial, Hammer Museum (2012); and Six Lines of Flight, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012). The Propeller Group’s members live and work between Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles.

1. “About,” The Propeller Group, accessed February 20, 2013, http://www.the-propeller-group.com/about

Source: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

The Propeller Group Featured Artworks

Television Commercial for Communism by The Propeller Group contemporary artwork
The Propeller GroupTelevision Commercial for Communism, 2011 - 2012Five-channel synchronized video installation (60:00 min), and one single-channel video (1:00min)
Variable dimensions
Not for sale
Singapore Art Museum

The Propeller Group In Ocula Magazine

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Ghosts, Spies And Grandmothers At Mediacity Seoul 2014 Ocula Feature Ghosts, Spies And Grandmothers At Mediacity Seoul 2014 By Jeesun Park, Seoul

Much has already been said about the fast-paced development and break-neck modernization of Asia but what has been largely forgotten in these breathless accounts is the importance of its history. In order to understand contemporary Asia one needs to look into the past, look more closely at its regional diversity and draw connections to local...

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Mediacity Seoul 2014: Ghosts, Spies, And Grandmothers Ocula Feature Mediacity Seoul 2014: Ghosts, Spies, And Grandmothers By Becca Voelcker, Seoul

Since its foundation in 2000, Seoul’s contemporary art biennial, Mediacity, aims to represent the city’s identity as a hub of media and technology. With an exhibition on three floors of Seoul Museum of Art, and a programme of screenings in the Korean Film Museum, Mediacity surveys the current climate in art production, shifting its...

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S. Alice Mong Ocula Conversation S. Alice Mong

S. Alice Mong became the Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong Center in 2012. Prior to joining the Asia Society, Ms Mong worked for almost a decade in New York, where as Director of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) she was responsible for transforming MOCA from a New York Chinatown institution to a leading national museum. Ms Mong...

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Richard Armstrong Ocula Conversation Richard Armstrong By Anna Dickie, Hong Kong

Our definition of “world” has so far been largely Europe and America. That is changing even today as we go to the Middle East.

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The Propeller Group In Related Press

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Two Projects Revisit Historical Images with a Calm and Critical Eye Related Press Two Projects Revisit Historical Images with a Calm and Critical Eye 10 November 2016, Hyperallergic

There are photographs that strike me as insurmountable. An image of presumable lovers, falling hand in hand from the World Trade Center as it burned. The image of a Vietnamese girl, screaming from the burning effects of napalm. The pain these photographs elicit is debilitating and the experience of seeing them is voyeuristic, not productive. The...

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A Vietnamese art collective is making commercials for Communism Related Press A Vietnamese art collective is making commercials for Communism 4 July 2016, The Creators Project

Seeking to illuminate the West's blind spot for Southeast Asia, the Ho Chi Minh City art collective-cum-advertising company The Propeller Group produces ambitious multimedia projects through artifacts, videos, and sculptural works. Vietnamese-born artists Tuan Andrew Nguyen and Phunam, along with Southern California native Matt Lucero...

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Playing with Guns and Ballistics Gel: Interview with The Propeller Group's Matt Lucero Related Press Playing with Guns and Ballistics Gel: Interview with The Propeller Group's Matt Lucero 9 June 2015, ArtAsiaPacific

The Propeller Group is a multidisciplinary, multi-platform art collective based in Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles. Together, artists Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Phunam and Matt Lucero create ambitious projects that cross the boundaries of visual art, advertising and film. Recently, ArtAsiaPacific sat down with Lucero to chat about the group’s...

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'After Utopia' at Singapore Art Museum Related Press 'After Utopia' at Singapore Art Museum 4 May 2015, Today Singapore

In 1516, the philosopher Thomas More coined the word “utopia” to describe an idealised society living on an island. He could not have predicted that, nearly half a millennium later, there would be an actual island state that some circles consider the epitome of his imagined community. Singapore’s status as a kind of poster...

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