Andrea Orejarena and Caleb Stein’s multimedia work Long Time No See (which consists of photographs, videos and drawings) deals with the two critical issues that we have faced in the field of photography up to the present day: who has a license to tell stories/make images of others who are deeply affected by a violent and traumatic history; and how photography, a frozen image, can convey the nuances and complexities of the narratives of others. The artists created the work through the collaborative process of more than 2 years: visual exchange with four-generations of Vietnamese people, including Vietnamese veterans, whose lives have changed forever by Agent Orange in the Vietnam-American War. The duo’s practice suggests meaningful directions to the issues through their full collaboration with the Vietnamese participants who were resident at Làng Hữu Nghi (Vietnam Friendship Village) and participated in video interviews, drew, and photographed, contributing to the work. The work is situated between reality and fiction, as seen, for example, in the photograph of two young men that the duo made and on which a participant drew images of bombers (thus breaking the stillness of the photo). The work reflects the memories and dreams of the Vietnamese participants, and presents quiet yet powerful, time-traveling, future dreaming individual and collective narratives of the war, revealed through the artists’ interventions.
– Yasufumi Nakamori, Hariban Award Juror 2021
Long Time No See (2018 – 2020) by Andrea Orejarena & Caleb Stein is a constellation of visions that explore the memory of the Vietnam-America War and the ongoing legacy of chemical warfare. We bring together photographs, paintings and video made in collaboration with Vietnamese veterans and their descendants. Over a two year period, we worked closely with the community at Làng Hữu Nghị — a residence in Hanoi for veterans and younger generations affected by Agent Orange, a chemical weapon used by the U.S. A critical component of this body of work is the questioning of traditional power dynamics in documentary photography and video art so that the often rigid divide between subject and author can give way to a wider conception of authorship and a multiplicity of perspectives. Many of the people in the photographs drew directly on the photographs and sometimes contributed drawings to be paired with the photographs. Their drawings also appear on the walls of their bedrooms in the background of the photographs. In the same spirit, the videos are dream-like vignettes we co-directed with Vietnamese veterans, blurring the lines between memories, dreams and wish-fulfillments. This collaboration offers a counter-narrative to the dominant historical narrative in the U.S. Our focus centers around a critical approach to artistic exchange to open up a democratic space for the audience to interact with the work and to approach the aftermath of this war from multiple entry points. In all of the components of this work, we are interested in how larger socio-economic and political structures are visible, or hidden, within what is personal, psychological, and spiritual. Long Time No See will be published by Jiazazhi Press in the fall of 2021. It is designed by Brian Paul Lamotte, and it includes texts by Đỗ Tường Linh and Forensic Architecture. To see a wider, multi-media edit of the videos and paintings please visit: http://www.caleb-stein.com/long-time-no-see
Orejarena & Stein (b. Colombia, 1994 & UK, 1994) are a U.S.- based artist duo. Their work employs the intersection of technology, memory and desire to explore American mythologies as they grapple with their relationship to their adopted home. A monograph of Long Time No See, is forthcoming with Jiazazhi Press in 2022, texts by Dỗ Tường Linh and Forensic Architecture. Permanent collections include Nguyen Art Foundation, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and Thomas H. Lee & Ann Tenenbaum Family Collection. Their work is available through Vin Gallery, The Curator’s Room, and Rose Gallery.