Copyright 2009

The Sky Is Not Sacred
In collaboration with Lien Truong

Single channel digital video with sound
TRT: 8:00

Oil on arches oil paper
Triptych, 72" x 153"

In the video, footage taken from war planes in the sky during the American military campaign in Việt Nam chronicles the perspectives of fighter pilots, and is juxtaposed with a narrative by John Constable, the 19th century British painter whose keen observations of the sky and clouds established a distinct landscape painting practice. Constable’s text professes an authentic reverence to the sky, suggesting the idealization of nature and science as an aesthetic epistemology. Together, image and text concede in admiration and awe, to the sky’s stature as a sublime, horrifying space. The Sky Is Not Sacred suggests the tension between the aesthetic and the political, and asserts the way in which Western ideologies have violently impacted the Vietnamese landscape, and more broadly, how they have shaped our cultural and emotional relationship to landscape as an imaginary space.

The Sky is Not Sacred collaboration includes a large triptych painting on paper. The work examines Operation Popeye, a US military operation that used weather modification during its military campaign in Southeast Asia. Planes dropped seeding agent into clouds, which initiated rainfall and extended monsoon season, making vehicular travel impossible over terrain. The triptych interprets 3 of stages of clouds from declassified diagrams in Operation Popeye. Appearing in a vast landscape, hard edges, structure and uncanny color agitate natural observations between sky and water.