That way I feel more relieved

(Coming but might not be soon)

Photographs, found objects, videos, sound, embroidery.

In the summer of 2016, I received an email from a man I had never met or heard of. The content describes in great detail his intimate relationship with my partner.

Throughout the email, he professes his passionate love for her and his grief and rage at discovering she was also cheating on him with other men. By the end of the writings, he expresses his desire for me to reply and be empathetic so he can relieve his emotional guilt. I couldn’t help but feel a strange mix of anger, curiosity, and sympathy toward this man. Although I wanted to write back, I couldn’t find the words.

Five years later, seeking closure, I revisited the email. Using my own story as an excuse, I began interviewing Vietnamese men I encounter in my everyday life, whether they are acquaintances or absolute strangers. Combining their reactions with AI software, I construct a visual response to the email.

The project addresses infidelity, a taboo topic in Vietnam that is rarely spoken among men but is regularly gossiped by women. In a culture heavily influenced by Confucianism with a patriarchal structure, it explores Vietnamese men’s mindset toward gender roles and relationships, anatomizing their thoughts and feelings in perhaps the most extreme situation. The narratives also examine the intricate interplay of cultural obligations of the Vietnamese male and female figures in an ever-changing society, struggling to determine its moral compass.

Excerpts from the interviews are used to generate AI materials, leveraging the technology’s vast and diverse databases as a visual survey tool. These AI elements then inspire the creation of actual images and videos. The project is a reflection on the influence of deep-rooted culture and mass media over Vietnamese social system, questioning its relevance in today’s world. The final photographs are presented as diptychs alongside the AI images in text encoding format.

That way I feel more relieved, 2024.
Single-channel color video, 10:06 minutes.