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


© Trinh T. Minh-ha


Trinh T. Minh-ha counts among the most important representatives of independent film worldwide. Since the early 1980s she has been developing a theoretical, filmic, and poetic oeuvre which is considered foundational for postcolonial and feminist approaches within art and research contexts, and which has significantly shifted the boundaries between documentation and fiction.
Born in Hanoi and raised in Saigon, Trinh emigrated to the United States in 1970 during the Vietnam War. After studying music composition, ethnomusicology and French literature in Illinois and Paris, she spent three years teaching at the National Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dakar, Senegal, starting in 1977. Her publications created together with the photographer and architect Jean-Paul Bourdier go back to this period, such as African Spaces: Designs for Living in Upper Volta (1985), as do her first two 16mm films, Reassemblage (1982) and Naked Spaces – Living Is Round (1985), both produced by Bourdier, who is involved in the organization of all of her filmic projects. From 1992 to 2022 Trinh taught at UC Berkeley in the departments of rhetoric and gender and women’s studies.
At the beginning of the film Reassemblage, shot in Senegal, one hears from the voice-off: “I do not intend to speak about, just speak nearby.” This “speaking nearby” was to become Trinh’s main method of approaching foreignness and the otherness with intimacy and respect, thus thwarting the colonial gaze.
The nine films made by Trinh have been recognized in over sixty retrospectives at film festivals and in art institutions throughout the world. Counting among the latter are exhibitions at the NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore (2020–21), Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London (2017), Jeu de Paume in Paris (2008), Tate Modern in London (2006), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (2004), and Secession in Vienna (2001). She has participated in numerous biennials, including Manifesta 13 in Marseille (2020), Busan Art Biennale (2004), and Documenta 11 in Kassel (2002). Her installations have been shown in venues like the Muse?e du Quai Branly in Paris (2006– 09), Kyoto Art Center in Japan (2003), and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (1999).
Among her most important theoretical-poetic writings are Women, Native, Other (1989), When the Moon Waxes Red (1991), Elsewhere, Within Here (2011), and Lovecidal: Walking with The Disappeared (2016), as well as compilations from interviews, and/or the film scripts in Framer Framed (1992) Cinema Interval (1999), The Digital Film Event (2005) and D-Passage. The Digital Way (2013).
Trinh has received numerous prizes and awards, such as the Wild Dreamer Lifetime Achievement Award of the Subversive Festival 2014 in Zagreb, the Trailblazers Award of the Cannes International Documentary Film Event 2006, and the Best Cinematography Award of the Sundance Film Festival 1992 for the film Shoot for the Contents. Her most recent film, What About China?, was the 2022 recipient of the New Vision: CPH Dox Award, the Prix Bartók of the Jean Rouch Film festival and the prestigious Persistence of Vision Award of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

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