b. 1974, Vietnam. Lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Phunam Thuc Ha is a photographer, filmmaker and collector whose works are inspired by his earlier career as a conservator. His fascination with understanding the different dimensions of every object or idea inspired him to create a series of large-scale photographs documenting the struggle of Vietnam between progress and the past.

In 2006, Ha and Tuan Andrew Nguyen founded ‘The Propeller Group’. They were later joined by Matt Lucero. The Propeller Group is a creative development company specializing in experimental film, music video and original television content.

The world we see is composed of a layered series of images, much like the material layers we clad our bodies and individualize our lived environments, and for Phù Nam Thúc Hà, these images are careful considered moments or choices. The orchestration of an image, the way it offers an archeology of a person, of a society or an object, is a powerful doorway offering further insight to a dimension of knowing that is perhaps little discussed, yet strongly felt. These layers or walls around which ideas are contained and controlled weaves a history whose surfaces of materiality are paramount to Hà’s ongoing work as a photographer and filmmaker who, interestingly began a career as a restorer of antiquities.

Hà’s father, Can Thuc Hà, was one of Vietnam’s most prolific collectors of South East Asian art and at the young age of 16, after studying restoration in Hanoi, Vietnam; Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand, Phù Nam Thúc Hà became a kind of conservation consultant. The photographic process of cataloguing his father’s collection fascinated the young Hà, realizing the facts and fictions buried beneath images can confuse authenticity from fakes. In his subsequent photographs and varied film-collaborations, each image or still possesses a particular mood or psychological space, a careful frame of activity or contemplation that stunningly encapsulates the dilemma of Vietnam – a country slipping between past and present, pushing and pulling itself indecisively towards an idea of progress that it struggles to articulate. ‘Pati-Nation’ is a series of large-scale photographs that allude to this struggle. These highly detailed images of various government compound walls in Ho Chi Minh City are almost tactile in their depth, the crumbling paint, the dripping of years of pollution and black soot, such indications of the passing of time and a kind of neglect are hidden provocations of a government ailing in its address of social liberties under a quasi Communist regime. The title of this series ‘Pati-Nation’ is also a curious pun, sardonically referring to these government structures as mere patinas or rusting foils to the true meaning of governance in the caring of a country’s people.

Phù Nam Thúc Hà studied Oil Painting Restoration at the Ecole des Beaux Art Hanoi, Vietnam in 1997, and subsequently traveled extensively across the South East Asian region assisting this father’s business and passion in antiquities. In 2005, Hà and Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn founded ‘The Propeller Group’ a creative development company specializing in experimental film, music video and original television content. Since 2003, Hà’s individual artist focus has turned solely to the language of photography and film. Recent exhibitions include, ‘Biennale Cuvée’, Linz, Austria, 2009; 2nd Singapore Biennale 2008; ‘Requiem for a Wall’, Galerie Quynh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 2007; and the ‘5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’, GOMA, Brisbane, Australia, 2006. Recent film works include ‘Flooded Mcdonald’s’ 2009 (directed by SuperFlex, Denmark) and ‘Saigon’ 2009 (directed by Jun Mori).

In 2007, Hà co-founded San Art in Ho Chi Minh City, an independent artist-run space and reading room, dedicated to the exchange and cultivation of Vietnamese contemporary art, with fellow artists Dinh Q. Lê, Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn and Tiffany Chung.   (Written by Zoe Butt)