Danh Vo Interview: Art Should Estrange


“There’s all this bullshit that art is bridging!” Meet the Danish-Vietnamese artist Danh Vo in his studio located between a chicken farm and a compost station outside Berlin.

In Danh Vo’s art you’ll find religious sculptures that are cut up, old American flags and his grandmother’s laundry machine. By using objects from his upbringing in a strict Catholic household and presenting them in a white cube gallery he wishes to alienate people and make them question what they know: “Everybody is born under systems,” Vo says and continues: “Somebody has created what you should do and think. And I’m very skeptical towards that.”

Often in Vo’s work, you’ll find a juxtaposition of objects. “Contradictions are very real in everybody’s life.” Danh Vo argues that we learn that life should be harmonies, which it rarely is. This is what he’s trying to project into contrasting pieces such as in the work Your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell (2015) where an old, wooden, religious sculpture has been merged together with a piece of marble sculpture.

Even though Danh Vo uses personal objects, the goal is not to reveal any intimacy with the viewer. “I was interested in the distance between different social groups,” he says. “I wanted to deal with estrangement, when you would come in a white cube where information is amputated. That you would just not understand.” To Vo art should not be bridging, it should estrange.

Danh Vo (b. 1975) is a Danish-Vietnamese artist. Vo has presented solo shows at several prominent art institutions, including The Royal Academy of Arts in London, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and Museo Jumex in Mexico City. In 2015, Vo represented Denmark in the Venice Biennial’s Danish pavilion. Vo is the recipient of prestigious awards a.o. the Hugo Boss Prize (2012).

Danh Vo was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in June 2020 at his studio Guldenhof in Germany.

Cite this page as: Art21, "Danh Vo Interview: Art Should Estrange," in Smarthistory, August 27, 2021, accessed October 16, 2021, https://smarthistory.org/danh-vo-interview-art-should-estrange/.