b. 1975, Vietnam
Untitled (Les grands voyageurs), 18, 2014-2015
Talavera Pottery from Santa Maria Canchesda, Mexico
77 x 81 cm
This vase is part of Danh Võ's Les grands voyageurs series of Talavera pottery—crafted using a technique rooted in Moorish traditions from 12th-century Spain, later transported to Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. Commissioned by Võ in Mexico City, these ceramics, adorned with vivid depictions of New World voyages, were meticulously crafted by local artisans near his home.
Danh Võ, renowned for his nuanced use of loaded cultural symbols and materials, utilises the vessel to comment on matters of immigration and the enduring legacy of colonialism. Inspired by Thomas de Bry's Grand voyages—a compilation lauding European exploits in the 16th century—the imagery and series delve into the complex legacies of colonialism.
Beyond de Bry's sensationalised portrayal of the indigenous Taíno people from the Caribbean pouring gold into a coloniser's mouth, the vase adeptly interweaves seemingly disparate elements—Taíno culture, the choice of Talavera pottery, and even de Bry himself. This deliberate appropriation of symbols serves as a commentary on the global influence and disruption caused by Spanish colonialism. Võ's approach, rooted in the conscientious selection and recontextualisation of cultural artefacts, underscores his exploration of the complexities surrounding the profound impacts of historical legacies.