Spanning nearly four decades, Trinh’s complex, theoretical, and poetic practice includes moving image, writing, musical composition, installation, and teaching. Recognized for her innovative and experimental approaches to image-making and storytelling, Trinh’s work has significantly influenced numerous artists, directors, and thinkers across several generations. She dedicates her practice to questioning totalising systems of knowledge and representations and categories of identity, and has made profound contributions to the fields of postcolonial and feminist studies.
Raised in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Trinh studied piano and music composition at the National Conservatory of Music and Theater in Saigon. She moved to the United States in 1970 to study composition, ethnomusicology, and French Literature at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, completing an MA in French Literature, a Master of Music, and a PhD in French and Francophone Literatures. Her research would eventually take her to Senegal and Dakar, where she studied cinema and cultural theory.
Trinh posits her films as “boundary events”, existing in a zone between labels—a place where new labels might form or dissolve or cross over one another, allowing the work to evade categorization. The work inhabits spaces between documentary fiction and experimental film, enhanced by the use of reflexive cinematic techniques and editorial processes that challenge the traditional documentary form and deconstructs modes of thinking and looking. To date, she has produced eight films that have been honored in over forty retrospectives around the world: Forgetting Vietnam (2015); Night Passage (2004); The Fourth Dimension (2001); A Tale of Love (1995), an experimental narrative; Shoot for the Contents (1991), a film on culture, art and politics in China; Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), a film on identity and culture through the struggle of Vietnamese women; Naked Spaces - Living is Round (1985); and Reassemblage (1982).
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