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Landscape.... it is often said..... is anchored in human existence.
Perceived through the gaze, interpreted through our senses, and mediated by cultural understandings, landscape is defined through individual and collective activity. As such, the landscape is much more than merely a platform for our endeavours - it bestows on our understandings a frame through which we situate our memories, mould the fundamentals of our existence and shape who we are. For a country such as Vietnam, changes in its landscape through the effects of war, rapid economic development, and the more recent demands of tourism, have resulted in much of the country being in a state of transition. It is this very nature that makes it so beguiling to the observer and consequently brought me to its rapidly changing shores to undertake this photographic exploration.
Momentum of the River's Flow is a series of photographic images produced as a response to the relationship between cultural perceptions and creative representations of the landscape. The creative practice of photography, which not only proposes but also partially realises our being in the world, occupies a valued place as a custodian of lived narratives constructed and framed through the landscape upon which they are played out. These images are photographic outcomes derived from a series of multiple visits to Vietnam over the past three years. They are however, not simply photographically captured moments in time but are often constructions of visual encounters, repositioned within the frame of the still image. Post-production techniques and manipulations, along with a contextual re-interpretation of the view seen through the camera's lens, are used to express narratives and perceptions, observed over time and framed by place.This body of work therefore positions creative representations of the landscape as a vehicle for the complex interactions between the individual, the collective, and the historical events that ultimately shape nationhood.
Referencing the position of an outsider, my gaze is ultimately defined by my own history and the cultural baggage I bring to the project. Personal as it clearly is, this gaze is nevertheless enacted in the photographs that make up this exhibition. Whist at all times readily acknowledging the outcomes as a Western response and personal interpretation of the cultural and historical fabric that constitutes contemporary Vietnam, Momentum of the River's Flow, is a reference to the inevitable, and unstoppable power of Vietnamese society. A society that seeks to move forward, no matter what the obstacles, no matter what the risks and no matter what the challenges, as in the inexorable flow of the metaphoric waterways that lie at its heart.
- Les Horvat