Mixed media (Iron frame, packaging foam, burlap, rivets, stainless steel).


Artist Nguyễn Văn Hè (also known as Hè Army) collects dog tags – a means of identification for American soldiers during the Vietnam War – as a keepsake, which serves as a way for him to pay tribute to those who fought in the war. In 2020, he commissioned Tuấn to create a special edition of Forefinger, which would make use of some dozens of dog tags etched with soldiers’ names in his collection, along with 4.900 blank ones. The work takes the form of a severed index finger pulling a trigger, its skin covered in nearly 5.000 metal dog tags. As Tuấn recalls, the original version of the work consists of four separate fingers – all in four different gun-firing gestures – that once belonged to the bodies of his family members, whose lives were taken without any mercy. 

In previous exhibitions, the work was often associated with discourses surrounding wars and conflicts, a typical, popularly sought-after “speciality” of Vietnamese art. This time, such heavy burdens are unloaded; I hope for the work to become an intersection for other kinds of encounters and most importantly, for sympathy – first, between the artist and his family; second, between the friend-colleague duo (Tuấn and Hè), and third, between the artist and the younger generations (me, EMASI students, and Tuấn’s son).


In wartime, my father and my uncles had to cut off their own forefingers so that they would be exempt from military duties. This is where the idea for this series originated. My family’s experience taught me that the American war in Vietnam was not run by any one ideology, but by monetary gains and the power of surplus values. [This is why the works were created to resemble] some kind of luxurious furniture, but also the bodies of dead animals. The forefinger thus symbolizes both power and the act of killing.

Original statement by the artist from White Noise Exhibition Brochure, 2023, p. 3-4.