Tiffany Chung: Vietnam, Past Is Prologue

Tiffany Chung: Vietnam, Past Is Prologue, probes the legacies of the Vietnam War and its aftermath through maps, videos, and paintings that highlight the voices and stories of former Vietnamese refugees.

Internationally acclaimed artist Tiffany Chung (b. 1969, Đà Nẵng, Viet Nam) is known for her multimedia work that explores migration, conflict, and shifting geographies in the wake of political and natural upheavals. Through this work, Chung documents accounts that have largely been left out of official histories of the period and begins to tell an alternative story of the war’s ideology and effects. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a series of video interviews with former Vietnamese refugees living in Houston, Southern California, and Northern Virginia that was commissioned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2018.

The exhibition makes visible a history hidden in plain sight for the past forty-five years. Chung’s subject, the War in Vietnam (1955–1975), has achieved a nearly mythic significance in the United States. In Vietnam, “the War” devastated life as it had been known, dividing time into a “before” and “after.”  Yet missing from the narratives told by these two sides is the perspective of the South Vietnamese, on whose behalf the Americans entered the war. Through meticulously drawn and stitched maps, emotional interviews, and intensive archival research, Chung explores the experience of refugees who were part of the large-scale immigration during the post-1975 exodus from Vietnam. She begins with a fine-grained look into one person’s story—that of her father, who fought for the South Vietnamese military during the war, widens out to encompass the stories of former refugees from Vietnam, and pulls out further still to show the global effects of their collective migration in the war’s wake.



Available to tour in 2020 and 2021.


The exhibition requires approximately 150 linear feet for artworks (divided equally between three sections), 33 linear feet for reproduction archival documents (this can be expanded or decreased as desired), and 25 linear feet for four introductory texts.



For booking information, contact Ximena Kilroe at or 212.988.7700 ext. 218.


A 30-page brochure has been produced for the exhibition and can be printed on-demand at cost to the presenting venues.


Sarah Newman is the James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Tiffany Chung: Vietnam, Past is Prologue is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from The Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. The tour is organized by the American Federation of Arts.