Ao Kim Ngân a.k.a. Yatender is a film photographer whose practice props up a ramshackle bridge of shared spaces in time and gives shape to the yearning for something more. The story she writes is a personal one, unfolding candidly from a desire to escape the narrow worldview of circumstance and reach across great distances to touch something real. Her work follows an experimental approach to inquire and attune, by examining a life captured behind the lens.
Giangiacomo Cirla: “Persona” is an intimate story, made accessible through the photographic medium, that allows us to perceive some aspects of your work and of your own person, a project that seems to say that words are not enough. Can you tell us something about this series?
Yatender: Words are never enough for what I feel and what I want to say. In the need of filling up the gap of communication between the surroundings and myself, I choose self-documenting through photography like one way to come in terms with myself; to convey, express, and accept both my body and my emotions as they are, whether it’s good or bad.
GC: Working about yourself and shooting self-portrait the performative aspect of your work is highlighted, can you tell me about this aspect and about your working method?
Y: This experimental series came out at the moment I decided to try a two-player game but with only myself: leaving a part of me here and there, in front and behind the camera just to watch myself in a way that my body is no longer mine. It turns out quite interesting sometimes when I look at the results, seeing myself bleeding or crying while another me was just there silently capturing it. Like you share with someone a very intimate moment but eventually it is just only yours completely.
GC: What’s your relationship with your body?
Y: I’ve been learning to love it.
GC: What is the idea behind your work, the main themes you want to investigate and express?
Y: The best thing I’ve learned from the process of self-documentary is as I can understand myself partly, it’s easier for me to relate/accept mine and other people’s problems. I think there is no end to problems in human life, and we’re built with the mechanics to feel, so it is inevitable being fragile and also very brave confronting our own demons.
GC: Why the choice to work with analog photography?
Y: I like to seek the unexpected element in almost everything in life, digital just seems too real and foreseeable for me.
GC: Have you ever used other media in your artistic projects?
Y: Not yet.
GC: In your works the bodies, the gestures, the locations and the objects seem to be so real, as if we had always known them. How much work is involved?
Y: They’re real maybe because I rarely plan my shoot. If something catches my eyes, I’ll find the way to adapt/ merge myself (or others) into the surroundings. I want to combine reality scene with my fantasy positions in search to create something odd and different for myself.
GC: You are based in Vietnam, an area almost unexplored by contemporary photography that allows a lot of experimentation, in particular I have memories of Ho Chi Minh city as a dynamic, and very ambitious place that confronts its past but firmly looks to the future. How much is your work related to your territory and how?
Y: What affected me and my work the most in the beginning was maybe the way people approach sexuality in Vietnam. We all know the situation here; it’s not forbidden but people won’t openly talk about it either. Growing up with the mist surrounding this topic, I later discovered it deeper and felt exploded. For me sex and art is one of the reasons that can keep human feelings lively, it’s wrong in so many ways when people avoid it instead of trying to open up and to understand more about one of a very basic instincts of ours, of human beings.
GC: What’s the contemporary artistic situation in Vietnam?
Y: It’s limited, underdeveloped; but growing, albeit slowly. We’re talking about Vietnam, a currently communist country, where the government wishes to control everything including the art scene. However, this is my personal point of view, I can only speak for myself, as I’m often struggling to find inspiration here in Vietnam. It’s hard to stay in one place for too long and still maintain productivity anyway.
I truly believe that it will change in time. There are a lot of good opportunities for young artists here to develop themselves and their work; they’re just not what I am looking for at the moment.
GC: Through your work you often have to deal with foreign realities and people, do you show your work more abroad or in Vietnam?
Y: I actually never want to set a boundary where to show my photos, since there are plenty ways to showcase our work on the internet nowadays. It’s simple, easy and more importantly, you have all the freedom to follow what you want.
GC: What are your plans for the future?
Y: Explore new places, meet new faces, trade stories, make new ones.
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