Trinh T. Minh-ha. The Ocean In A Drop

October 22, 2022 - January 22, 2023

Trinh T. Minh-ha counts among the most important filmmakers worldwide. Since the early 1980s she has been developing a filmic, theoretical, and poetic oeuvre which is considered foundational for postcolonial and feminist approaches within art and research contexts.

With The Ocean In A Drop, running from October 22, 2022, to January 22, 2023, the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart is showing Germany’s first comprehensive solo exhibition by the Berkley-San Francisco-based artist, whose work includes musical compositions, poetry, and literature.

Trinh delves into the interstitial realms between documentation and fiction, theory and art, the visible and the audible. Her films, which have received various awards, have been mainly shot in different parts of Africa and Asia, presenting a multidimensional, polyphonic picture of the people living there, along with their cultures, living spaces, and political contexts.

The title of the exhibition pays reference to the political and poetic forces found in her films, especially in aspects of the everyday that are unseen, unheroic and marginalized. Trinh’s films are intricate and yet, they remain simultaneously open in their narratives, interweaving a wealth of elements—music, language, and imagery, silence and vacuity, her own texts and those of others, or materials from various times and contexts—to create a multivocal and multilayered textured work.

Here, the paradoxical, the unexpected, and the seemingly contradictory are the main keys offered by Trinh for arriving at a deeper understanding of the world. Moreover, in her work she has developed a practice of “speaking nearby” (Trinh, as differentiated from speaking “about,” “for” or “on top of”) which allows her to approach foreignness and otherness with intimacy and respect, thus thwarting the colonial gaze.

The Ocean In A Drop shows six long films from the 1980s to today, presented in six individual, color-coded rooms. Abstractly mirroring the individual works in the main exhibition space, which is framed by these film berths, are mini projections, citations, and also collages of film stills. Also, a selection of the artist’s books and related reference materials are presented on tables.

The exhibition therefore plays out on two planes—equating to, yet also moving beyond, the cinema hall and the white cube. Due to the visitors moving back and forth between the six berths, the concurrent projection of the films facilitates a somewhat fragmentary, rather than linear, perception of the individual pieces, along with a continual recombination of the fragments that carry within them the whole—the ocean within each drop. This gives rise to evernew relations between the individual films and the artist’s theoretical works.

Films in the exhibition
What About China?, USA, China 2021, digital film, 135'
(with German subtitles)
Forgetting Vietnam, USA, Vietnam, 2015, digital film, 90'
Night Passage, USA 2004, digital film, 98'
Shoot for the Contents, China, USA 1991, digital film (16mm), 102'
Surname Viet Given Name Nam, USA 1989, digital film (16mm), 108'
Naked Spaces – Living Is Round, USA 1985, digital film (16mm), 135'

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Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart