Phuong Ngo

29 Nov - 16 Dec 2023

When American political journalist (and close friend of Henry Kissinger) James Reston observed, ‘The ship of state is the only known vessel to leak from the top’, he was speaking of the flow of informational leaks from executive levels of government. The idea of a vessel leaking from the top is absurd and surreal – and yet this is what Reston considers an aspect of ‘functional’ government. In borrowing this term for their current exhibition, Slippage seeks to understand the relationship between decision making, information sharing, and actions taken during conflicts, particularly the Vietnam/American War.

VESSELS THAT LEAK FROM THE TOP is a conceptual and material exploration into the intersections of historic events and the role of governments in determining the fate of the ‘masses’. In this exhibition, Quach and Ngo have slip-cast a series of objects from the detritus of war: artillery, mortar shells, and trench art objects collected from Vietnam have been transformed into stoneware vessels, a loose reference to existing Vietnamese vessels held in national collections like the NGV.

Commenting on the role of chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemicals, the producer of the lethal plant defoliant Agent Orange, each piece has been finished in an orange glaze that has the weedkiller Roundup introduced into it, creating a series of unknown outcomes. Quach and Ngo expand on this by altering, chipping, and breaking the moulds from which each piece is cast, to illustrate the accumulation of damage physically and visually because of the policies that have been enacted by VESSELS THAT LEAK FROM THE TOP.

SLIPPAGE (Hwafern Quach & Phuong Ngo)
Slippage is the collaborative practice of contemporary artists, Hwafern Quach and Phuong Ngo. Rooted in the materiality of clay, SLIPPAGE examines the cycles of history in conjunction with current geopolitical and economic issues through the lens of vernacular cultures, artefacts, and language.

See full exhibition catalogue HERE