ABSTRACT

This essay explores the spiritual and performative practice of ancestor worship as revisited by Czech-Vietnamese queer artist Lê Thị Hoài. The essay unpacks the power dynamics at stake in Lê Thị’s practice and introduces spirituality as a challenge to established power hierarchies. Lê Thị’s artistic work is inspired by her experience of the entanglements, complexities, and conflicts that her heritage—personal, cultural, social, and political—brings to her. The essay draws on Julietta Singh’s rethinking of “mastery” to interpret Lê Thị’s work as “unmasterful.” It looks at the symbolism, form, material, and function in Lê Thị’s work and juxtaposes the contradictory political, social, and economic beliefs that she strives to overcome. The author argues that the subversiveness of performative revision of traditional rituals is constituted through not only challenging an established system of values but also bringing to the forefront the ambiguity between the politics of private and public spaces and understanding spiritual force as an equal element in the art piece.

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