James Nguyen: Làm Chó Bò ~ Making Trouble

Làm Chó Bò ~ Making Trouble is an essay based on the PhD research of Melbourne-based artist, James Nguyen.

As well as offering exegetical analysis of Nguyen’s own work, the research examines a range of themes including institutional research culture and the politics of research ethics therein; archival art and activism; the act of translation, migration, Australian settler-colonialism, and Indigenous land acknowledgements; cross-generational experiences of postwar Vietnamese diaspora; and the legacies of Vietnamese feminist poetry, including poetry by the artist’s mother herself, Nguyen Thi Kim Dung. The book features a foreword by Bundjalung, Kamilaroi, and MuruWarri artist and educator, Professor Brian Martin.

One of the book’s central ideas is that of chó bò. Nguyen writes: “chó bò is the approximate Vietnamese homonym for trouble. Literally translated, chó bò is a dog~cow or dog~crawl. Either way, these linguistic slips produce an absurdist assemblage, a troubling word play when spoken. As we try to pronounce the word trou~ble, we throw the dog among the cows, forcing it to crawl on its belly. Chó bò is a common joke for many Vietnamese people living in English-speaking countries. Often perceived by others as troubling and troublesome, we carry the linguistic and political means to make big epistemic trouble. Twisting our tongues to mimic the normative structures around us, our informal acts of translation, imperfect speech, and language brokering can metaphorically articulate the troubles surrounding us, including the most troubling parts of the Vietnamese diaspora itself.”

Edited by Helen Hughes and Amy May Stuart, with foreword by Bundjalung, Kamilaroi, and MuruWarri artist Professor Brian Martin. Designed by Zenobia Ahmed.

336 pages, 108 × 177 mm, Softcover, BW, Edition of 400, ISBN 978-0-9945388-9-5