Take Cover Take Care

Two sewage drain covers were taken from the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. One was carved on the underside with lyrics from the Tupac Shakur’s song, “I Don’t Give a Fuck,” taken from his first solo album entitled “2pacalypse Now”. The lyrics read:

Fuck bailin’ hate / I bail and spray with my A-K / And even if they shoot me down / There’ll be another nigga bigger / from the mutha-fuckin’ underground

On the underside of another sewage drain cover are carved lyrics from young, aspiring Vietnamese rapper named Wowy. This sewage drain cover was then put in place of the original sewage drain cover in front of Galerie Quynh, Ho Chi Minh City. The English translation of Wowy’s lyrics reads:

My mom said that i was born to the wrong house / but i just quietly smile and answer that it’s okay / i know my mom won’t understand ‘cause the things i say have so much subtext / when my mom is me then she’ll understand the words of the underground

[original Vietnamese lyrics]

Má tao nói tao đẻ lộn nhà vì cách sống và nói của tao /  Nhưng tao thì chỉ lặng cười và trả lời rằng chuyện đó không sao / Tao biết má sẽ không hiểu vì lời tao nói sẽ mang ẩn ý / Khi má là tao thì mẹ sẽ hiểu những từ ngữ của underground

This work is memorial and vandalism, calling upon the sincerity of gravestones but ironically hidden and buried like the lives that those very gravestones signify.  It blurs the line between the ‘monumental’ and the ‘underground’ giving way to more complex understandings of American hip hop and ways in which the youth in Vietnam have connected with it.

On display in the gallery is a photograph of the new sewage drain cover moments before it was laid down in place of the original.

‘[…] Nguyen’s earlier work Take Cover Take Care (2008) juxtaposes lyrics by American rapper Tupac Shakur and Vietnamese rapper Wowy carved into the undersides of two manhole covers. In spite of their common genre and subcultural contexts, the two sets of lyrics express markedly contrasting sentiments, the former responding to cultural and social control with the threat of violence, and the latter with a patient acceptance of difference.’ (June Yap, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)