FIN 140 Unit 3

Artist Research – My-Van Dam

Description of process used to decide on artist

I went through all the artists on the list and did a quick search to get basic information about each, including glimpsing into the artist bio or artist statement, if there was one. I think I could have chosen ANY of the artists, based on the samples of their work that I saw, so I “disqualified” all male artists, as they generally get a lot more attention anyway, and then I disqualified anyone no longer living, and then I disqualified anyone not in Canada…and I settled on My-Van Dam primarily because of this sentence, taken from her bio:

“Her intention is to expose the vulnerability that inhabits each individual and to demonstrate human complexity through artistic experiences”

I think that at this point, and perhaps always in the past and always into the future, I have been aware of and drawn to human vulnerability and complexity, and am in part driven in my art-making by those aspects of being human. I also like that she is a multi-disciplinary artist, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn as I work through her oeuvre and what is said about her by others, and by her self. There is so little to be discovered about My-Van Dam, at least compared to what was discoverable about Yoko Ono, but here is some basic information:

One of My-Van Dam’s pieces that captures the essence of her artistic enterprise, is “Pathological Inheritance” (Heritage pathologique), a 2018 installation piece comprising silicone, chain, and fabrics, and described in part by the artist in the following Tele-Quebec video: You’ll need at least a cursory understanding of French to understand her in this documentary about the impact of Viet-Nam war trauma on survivors and the generations after them, but watching her as she works with her materials and then installs the piece next to the water is more than worth the 9 minutes, contextualized by the experiences of Canadian war vets. Both the life and death of her father appear to be catalyzing influences on her art work, as she explores the trauma visited upon her family by her father’s war experiences and the impact on her self, mother, and sister, of his death. 

Dam is a contemporary Montreal-based artist (pictured here ), who aims to “challenge the spectator on their own condition so that they can question themselves and have a basis of reflection on these themes [human vulnerability and complexity] in order to seek for courage and inner peace” Dam is also an activist, and her IG page shows her involved in events against anti-Asian hate crime. 

I searched all the usual places (galleries, Fine Arts database, and a general google search) but found only her own webpage and a link to her Instagram page, which is pretty much a distilled version of her webpage, but with the addition of her cat, Athena, in some of the pictures. Her biographical information does not include her birthplace, but she studied art at UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal), and she is currently a coordinator of programming and technique at La Centrale galerie Powerhouse, in Montreal. 

Because I could find so little about Dam, I looked closely at all the projects that she posts on her webpage, and each in some way addresses her stated manifesto which is to explore generational trauma, vulnerability, and courage. Here is a link to her project page here: 

She predominantly makes installation pieces, but also uses photography, and she uses chains, plastic, silicone, rocks, paper…anything that contributes to the expression of trauma and vulnerability. The relationship between the elements is also important in her work, which means that to “read” her work, I needed to study not only the placement of the pieces, but also the differences (if any) between the materials used, the relative sizes of the elements, and anything else tactile, visual, or kinetic. Reviews of her work do not appear to be available

She seems to have started showing in 2015, and appears to be in her twenties.

What interests me about this artist’s work is her connection to human trauma, vulnerability, and complexity; I’m curious to see how she represents them. I think that when I have been making small sculptural figures for my various projects, I am always attempting to capture a range of human emotion, capture human complexity. I think that at this point Dam’s focus is her self and mother and sister, and her work is visibly personal, and that what I am trying to do is use my personal experiences but represent them in ways that are at a farther remove from me. I think I can try to narrow that distance between my personal experience and how I express it, but at this point I’m not completely convinced that that is a good idea. Also, I could push myself to make larger/installation pieces, although cost of materials and my lack of ability to work them correctly always seems prohibitive. I will definitely use saran wrap and/or transparent silicone in something at some point.