In this first major monograph, featuring almost a decade of work, Tommy Kha explores the highly personal psycho-geography of his hometown. As the artist states, “Memphis has become, for me, not only the place where I was raised but an active borderland between fantasy and memory, nostalgia and history, nonfiction and mythology.” Memphis is where his mother, fleeing Vietnam in the early 1980s, settled, along with his extended family. Throughout the work, his mother emerges as a recurring character, sometimes the subject of quiet photographic study, and in others, a collaborative muse. “I’m a cut of my mom,” Kha asserts, “Every photograph I make of her is a Half Self-Portrait.” In snapshots drawn from a family album that serves as the one record of her journey to the United States, she is the source of nostalgia and barely captured memory. In assembling a visual account of the struggle to find his own voice and narrate the fragmented history of his family, Kha challenges the cultural amnesia around Asian lives and experiences in recent American histories. Acclaimed author Hua Hsu contributes an engaging essay, “People Need to Smile More,” and MacArthur Fellow An-My Lê conducts an incisive conversation with Kha that delves into his family history and artistic strategies.
Tommy Kha: Half, Full, Quarter is the result of the Next Step Award, a partnership between Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, in collaboration with the 7G Foundation. An exhibition of the work will open at Baxter St in New York in February 2023.