Art History MA student Mallory Nanny is presenting a paper this month at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Graduate Art History Conference Hiding in Plain Site: Seeing and Feeling the Everyday. Nanny’s paper, “An-My Lê’s Small Wars: Remembering and Forgetting the Vietnam War,” discusses a project by Vietnamese American photographer An-My Lê. From 1999 to 2002, Lê traveled to North Carolina and Virginia to document re-enactments of the Vietnam War.
Small Wars is the creative product of the artist’s experience participating in and photographing the re-enactment. The performance is an inherently sanitized and fictionalized representation of war, and Lê’s poetic documentation speaks to the larger issues about the ways in which the Vietnam War is blurred by fact and fiction through Hollywood portrayals and secondary memory. Drawing on scholarship of the malleability of memory and postmodernist theory, Nanny suggests that Small Wars not only demonstrates how the war is both remembered and forgotten, but also indicates the impossibility of coming to terms with a past when its historical reality is unknown.