Deciding Utopia: Artist Profile of Antonius Bui

diaCRITICS highlights Vietnamese artists of the diaspora. This is Part 1 of a two-part profile on artist Antonius Bui.

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Artist Statement

In Latin the meaning of the name Antonius is:

Worthy of praise; of value

But that wasn’t always my name.

Paper, blades, and others weren’t always sources of beauty for me.

 

I no longer go by Anthony.
I now value the history & potential of my materials.

They no longer only carry suffering and pain, but also glimpses of my thriving community.
My queer, yellow body has transformed alongside the fabric I carve.

I dive into history while recognizing that I am more than a war.
We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.
We have suffered and continue to, but that doesn’t define us.

 

What value do my communities have in society?

Who is considered worthy of praise?

What is considered natural or unnatural?

What does utopia look like?

 

I decide.
We decide.

 

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1) “Eating the Other”

Atonius Bui perfroming “eating the Other.”

eating the Other was inspired by Bui’s personal experiences existing as a queer Asian body in a predominantly cisgender, white, able-bodied, heteronormative, LGBTQIA+ community. A View from the Bottom by Tan Hoang Nguyen, Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance by bell hooks, and Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed greatly influenced this performance as well. The piece was performed at DC Arts Center on May 20, 2018, the closing reception of Queer(ed) Performativity.

Consuming “eating the Other.”

“The fetishization, objectification, and consumption of Asian bodies, particularly gay and/or queer bodies, is systemic and violent. In the LGBTQ community we continue to perpetuate harmful colonialist patterns of behavior. Antonius’s performance last night was visceral and brilliant. Thank you for adding a poignant end to Queer(ed) Performativity.  “

Andy Johnson, curator of Queer(ed) Performativity

eating the Other from Antonius Bui on Vimeo.

2) “Category Is”

In “Category Is,” audience members were invited to “perform” Bui’s gender using “weapons of femininity and masculinity.”

Category Is was performed on March 29, 2018 in D.C. as part of Unraveling the Living Archive, Halcyon Arts Lab’s second performance cycle. For 2 hours, audience members were invited to “perform” Bui’s gender using “weapons of femininity and masculinity”.

Bui and audience members in “Category Is.”

Bui in “Category Is.”

3) “Mom/Me” (in progress work)

An ao dai in “Mom/Me.”

She no longer fits into them.

I never will.

“Dress pins embroidered into my mom’s old Ao Dai.”

4) “Will You Go To Homecoming With Us?”

From “Will You Go To Homecoming With Us?” Photo by Junior Fernandez

The Texas tradition of homecoming mums, where high school students adorn themselves with large and elaborate floral pins, goes back over a century. The unique designs that are common today emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, part of the deep cultural attachment to football made famous by shows like Friday Night Lights. Antonius-Tin Bui connects these mums, highly styled and weighed down with objects that are meaningful to the wearer, to queer fashion, particularly the larger-than-life stylings of drag performers. Antonius uses the common association of mums as a part of a culturally conformist high school culture that prevails in Texas to pay homage to the untold stories of growing up queer in a deeply traditional society. By “queering” the traditional Texas mum, Antonius reimagines this object as an outlet for self-expression in an environment that can be difficult for youth who do not identify with traditional gender norms.

In Collaboration with Kumquat, DJ Domtop, Duke Diesel, S Rodriguez, and Sara Balabanlilar.

From “”Will You Go To Homecoming With Us?” Photo by Junior Fernandez

From “”Will You Go To Homecoming With Us?” Photo by Junior Fernandez


Artist Bio

Photo by Alex Rosa

Antonius-Tin Bui (they/them) proudly identifies as a queer, gender-nonbinary, Vietnamese-American artist. They are the child of Paul and Van Bui, two Vietnamese refugees who sacrificed everything to provide a future for their four kids and extended family. Born and raised in Bronx, NY, Antonius eventually moved to Houston before pursuing a BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MIC/A).

Since graduating in 2016, Antonius has been fortunate to receive fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Kala Art Institute, Tulsa Artists Fellowship, Halcyon Arts Lab, and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Thanks to these opportunities, they have greatly expanded their practice beyond just hand-cut paper techniques. They are currently interested in complicating Vietnamese history and queerness through performance, textiles, and photography. Antonius has exhibited at various institutional, private, public, and underground venues, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Smithsonian Arts & Industry Building, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hillyer Art Space, Lawndale Art Center, Living Arts, 108 Contemporary, Artscape, and the Philbrook Museum.
antoniusbui.com 
Instagram: @buimonster

Upcoming Shows:
Solo Show at Lawndale Art Center: yêu em dài lâu
Dec. 7, 2018-March 3, 2019 (Houston, TX)

Experimental Action Performance Art Festival 2019
Feb. 21-23, 2019 (Houston, TX)

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