PHUONG NGO: THE IRL INFOSHOP
Nominated by Shane Hulbert
Phuong Ngo is a Vietnamese-Australian artist living and working in Melbourne. Ngo was nominated by Shane Hulbert who commented that
‘[Ngo’s] practice is concerned with the interpretation of history, memory and place, and how it impacts individual and collective identity of the Vietnamese diaspora. Through archival processes rooted in a conceptual practice, he seeks to fi nd linkages between culture, politics and oral histories and historic events, which in turn dictate the materiality of his artistic output.’ (Hulbert, 2020)
Ngo’s response to the STAGES commission is one that sought to upend the status quo and to challenge how and to whom public funding is disseminated. He donated the commissioning fee to The IRL Infoshop, a collectively run, independent community space and information point for those in need. The IRL Infoshop used the funds to support struggling families to purchase food and essential goods during Melbourne’s lockdown. Ngo’s work speaks to an inequality that divided communities and the importance of supporting those most vulnerable.
‘We live in an ever-failing state of existence, the privatisation of racism (neo-liberalism) and the ever-growing divide between who is or isn’t deserving has always been a problem on a local, national and international scale. COVID-19 has only exposed this for what it is.’ (Ngo, 2020)
Ngo sought to ‘… capture moments that expose the depth of inequality towards these communities and to provide insights into under-represented parts of our society and make visible the activism currently taking place to support those left out.’ (Ngo, 2020)
Need is, as he says, universal.
The artist placed no restriction on how the donation would be used, asking only for receipts or documentation of receipts in return. Sixteen of these photographed receipts are displayed on the gallery wall, and each of the receipts sent to Ngo documenting how the funds were used have been printed, stacked and piled in chronological order by months and displayed in museological display cabinets. These stacks of prints chart the utilisation of funding provided by The IRL Infoshop to those in need from April 2020 to February 2021, which totalled over $90 000 during the period, making Ngo’s donation just a fraction of a percent of the total amount. In doing so, The IRL Infoshop provided aid to part of the community who were left out of the federal government’s social security net. This highlighted for Ngo, ‘how these failed systems expose inequality’. (Ngo, 2020)
Phuong NGO and IRL Infoshop
from the series IRL
17 pigment ink-jet prints
26.8 x 18.0 cm (each) (sheet size 29.7 x 21.0 cm)
courtesy of the artist
Everybody around the world has had to change their lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic; children, parents, grandparents, people of all cultures, people who live alone and those who live in family groups. Many people have needed support for these changes, but not everyone was able to receive the help they needed.
What are some of the things people need to get through the pandemic and lockdown?
What are some of the reasons people might have struggled during the lockdowns?
The artist, Phuong Ngo was paid to make this artwork, and he has donated the money he was paid to IRL Infoshop; a community space where people help one another and provide food and essential goods to those in need. Phuong has used the receipts given to him from the IRL Infoshop to make an artwork that talks about people in need.
There are so many ways we can help each other. Was there a time during lockdown when you needed help or when you helped someone?