Forefinger 1


Clothed in a dizzying array of exotic materials - such as carved animal bone, cow hide and crocodile leather - Forefinger evokes lavish furniture pieces belonging to the powerful and the wealthy, while drawing attention to the sacrifices of war victims and unresolved post-war trauma. The forefinger is the “trigger finger”, vital to every soldier; anti-war activists would cut off their index fingers to avoid military conscription. However, the resulting handicap is perceived by the younger generations as an unwelcome reminder of the inherited baggage of war. In situating one’s loss as an accessory of aesthetics and pleasure, Tran highlights the need to reframe the negotiation with the pass - the absence of a finger should affirm the presence of the greater fight for peace.

(Text by curator Trần Lương extracted from the catalogue of in Singapore Biennale 2013).
Artwork curated by Trần Lương and exhibited at Singapore Biennale 2013.


In the war time, my father and my uncles had to cut off their own forefingers so that they would be exempted from military duties. That is where the idea for this series originated. My family’s experience taught me that the Vietnamese war was not run by any ideology, but by the power of surplus values, by money. This idea was the founding concept for my series. I created some kind of luxurious furniture, while, simultaneously, making them look like dead animals. The forefinger is thus the symbol of both power and killing.

Commissioned by Singapore Biennale 2013.