Danh Vo, Oma Totem, 2009. Objects from the artist’s grandmother Nguyen Thi Ty: 26" Phillips television set, Gorenje washing machine, Bomann refrigerator, wooden crucifix, and personal entrance card for a casino

Danh Vo, Oma Totem, 2009. Objects from the artist’s grandmother Nguyen Thi Ty: 26" Phillips television set, Gorenje washing machine, Bomann refrigerator, wooden crucifix, and personal entrance card for a casino

Artwork: Oma Totem

The sculpture consists of his grandmother’s refrigerator, television set, and washing machine all stacked on top of each other and decorated with her crucifix and a personal entry card to a casino. Danh Vo’s grandmother received these technical devices from the social services and the crucifix from the catholic church back in the 1980s when she arrived in Germany to be reunited with the part of family that ended up there. The sculpture is not merely a specific, concrete reference to her life; it also speaks eloquently of a wide range of other matters.

Danh Vo’s works arrange and choreograph very specific, usually found objects, documents, letters, or photographs that evoke and give material form to some story, some history. He does not distinguish between personal anecdotes and events in world history. To Danh Vo, private biography and universal history are inextricably linked, affecting each other in a symbiotic relationship.

The elements in OmaTotem do not just represent the well-meaning, yet also absurd Catholic and social organisations which seemed to assume that if only you had these particular Western amenities your integration would be complete. They are also the actual appliances and the actual crucifix that were part of the artist’s grandmother’s home; these are the very objects that she would use, touch, and look at every day.