Dinh Q. Lê (Vietnamese, born 1968), Untitled, from the series Cambodia: Splendor and Darkness, 1998. C-print and linen tape, 63 × 44 in. (160 × 111.8 cm). Acquired through the George and Mary Rockwell Fund, 2014.001 © 2017 Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Dinh Q. Lê is the most established Vietnamese-American artist to date, having had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (The Farmers and the Helicopters, 2009) and shown at dOCUMENTA 13. He was born in Ha Tien, a Vietnamese town near the border with Cambodia, and in the late 1970s he and his family settled in the United States as refugees. Cambodia: Splendor and Darkness (1994–99) marked a significant moment in his practice, occurring around the time that Lê decided to return to Vietnam and make his home in Ho Chi Minh City. It is the first major series in which he used his signature method of interweaving strips of photographs, following bamboo mat weaving techniques he learned from his aunt during his childhood. Here he juxtaposes two different images associated with Cambodia: bas-reliefs of battle scenes from the twelfth-century temple of Angkor Wat, and photographs of prisoners from the Khmer Rouge detention center known as S-21 (now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum). Lê creates a dialogue between two episodes of Cambodian history that he sees as intrinsically rooted in violence, producing an alternative means of memorializing these victims.