Exhibitions, Projects

Horror Film The Exorcist the inspiration for new Danh Vō exhibition

Image © Danh Vō, courtesy White Cube

The first exhibition in Hong Kong of new work by Dutch-Vietnamese artist Danh Vō is inspired from the voice of the devil from the notorious 1973 horror film The Exorcist.

The exhibition is centered around Vō’s expansive 2015 installation, named after lines spoken by the demon in the infamous William Friedkin film The Exorcist, from 1973.

Vō suspends over 600 mammoth fossils from the late Pleistocene period, as well as a carved ivory figure from the 17th century, from the ceiling throughout the gallery, its corridors and stairwells.

The installation was first presented at the Crystal Palace, Museo Nacional Centro de Reina Sofía, Madrid as part of the 2015 exhibition Banish the Faceless / Reward your Grace.

Danh Vō, pronounced yon voh, was born in 1975 in Bà Rịa, Vietnam. After the Communists’ victory and the fall of Saigon, the Vo family and 20,000 other South Vietnamese were brought in 1975 to the island of Phú Quốc.

When he was four-years-old, Danh and his family fled South Vietnam in a homemade boat and was rescued at sea by a freighter belonging to the Danish Maersk shipping company.

The family members settled in Denmark,  and the events that led up to their flight from Vietnam, and their assimilation into Nordic culture, are reflected in Vō’s art.

Vō has been based in Berlin since 2005, after finishing school at Städelschule in Frankfurt, where he went after quitting painting at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

Since then, he has had residencies at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles (2006) and at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris.

Vo’s new series was inspired by the following quote from the 1971 novel The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, which was made into the hugely successful, yet widely condemned horror film of the same name in 1973.

Though booked at first in only twenty-six theaters across the U.S., it soon became a major commercial success. The film earned ten Academy Award nominations, winning two (Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay). It became one of the highest-grossing films in history, grossing over $441 million worldwide in the aftermath of various re-releases, and was the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The film was banned under the Video Recordings Act 1984 from home viewing and was removed from video stores. Two attempts of distributing the USA’s cut of the film were both rejected in 1999 before the film became readily available to viewers.

Vo’s quote from the book, which is retained in the film’s screenplay, is:

“You’re gonna die up there/ Keep away! The sow is mine/ Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me/ Let Jesus fuck you, let Jesus fuck you! Let him fuck you/ Lick me, lick me/ Do you know what she did, your cunting daughter?/ You might loosen the straps then/ I’m not Regan/ And I’m the Devil! Now kindly undo these straps/ That’s much too vulgar a display of power, Karras/ In here. With us/ Can you help an old altar boy Father?/ Your mother’s in here with us Karras, would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it/ What an excellent day for an exorcism/ Intensely/ It would bring us together/ You and us/ Uh Huh/ In time/ In time/ Mirabile dictu, don’t you agree?/ Ego te absolvo/ Bon Jour/ La plume de ma tante/ Until she rots and lie stinking in the earth/ What’s that?/ You keep it away/ Ahhhhhhhhhhh/ Ahhhhhhh/ It burns, it burns/ Emit su evig/ Ydob eht ni mraw si ti/ Uoy ees I/ Tseirp a si eh/ Emit su evig/ Nirrem, Nirrem/ Tseirp a si eh/ Eno on ma I/ Eno on ma I/ Ahhhhhhhhhhh/ Stick your cock up her ass, you mother-fucking, worthless cocksucker/ Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime/ Bastards, stop/ Shove it up your ass, you faggot/ Fuck him, Karras/ You killed your mother/ You left her alone to die/ She’ll never forgive you/ Bastard/ Dimmy, why you did this to me?/ Please Dimmy, I’m afraid/ Dimmy please!/ Dimmy, είσαι πολύ κουρασμένος να πας στο κρεβάτι/ Ο Θεός μαύρο/ Why, Dimmy?

Danh Vō has courted controversy in his career before. In July 2015, the New York Times Arts and Leisure section ran a story about a lawsuit between Vo and Dutch collector Bert Kreuk.

Kreuk was accused of “flipping” the works of Vo – buying and then quickly selling his work, purely in the interests of making a profit.

Kreuk, in turn, claimed Vo promised him an installation for $350,000 – an amount less than the market value of much of Vo’s work. Vo disputed he ever made the promise.

Kreuk’s claim was successful in the Dutch courts, which ordered Vo to complete the works within a year, or face a daily fine of  10,000 euros.

On July 16th, Vo, after appealing the court’s decision, issued an open letter to Kreuk oin Artists Space, saying that he’s going to paint, at Kreuk’s Panama residence and room 38 of Gemeentemuseum, the words: “SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS, YOU FAGGOT.”

Vo represented Denmark at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and participated in the International Exhibition of the Biennale in 2013. Solo exhibitions include the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2016); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2015); Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2013); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013); Art Institute of Chicago (2012); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2012); Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2009) and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008).

Danh Vō, White Cube Hong Kong is on display from 7 September to 12 November, 2016