Born in Japan, Noritaka Minami is a Chicago-based photographer currently exhibiting his unique and thoughtful SGN photo series, an investigation of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the current state of the steel lattice towers first erected there by the French as utility poles during the early twentieth century to facilitate the development of the Indochinese Union. Despite the passage of time and the tumultuous history experienced in this region since their construction, these lattice towers have endured and remained a consistent presence in the built environment of the city. SGN opened on January 9 and runs through February 14 at FLXST Contemporary
The major social, political, and economic developments within Vietnamese society in recent decades have also led to these structures becoming a truly extraordinary visual sight. The number of cables now supported by the lattice towers far exceeds the original capacity of their design and has transformed each one into a unique, sculpture-like object.
The overwhelming quantity of cables that have accumulated on the lattice towers is the product of the rapid socio-economic transformations that Vietnam has experienced since reforms were initiated in 1986 with Đổi Mới (Renovation). The photographs in SGN examine these overlooked remnants of French colonialism in the contemporary landscape of Ho Chi Minh City as structures that represent the historical trajectory of the region as it evolved from one of the centers of the French colonial empire in Southeast Asia to the economic engine of an independent and developing nation attempting to merge socialism with global capitalism.
At this moment, these lattice towers and the innumerable cables they support are also starting to be removed from sight as part of the modernization of the citys landscape in the twenty-first century. This recent tide of urban redevelopment and the decision to remove what is viewed as blight has only increased Minamis sense of urgency to document these structures before they permanently disappear. With Vietnamese society in the midst of major changes, this photography series meditates on the past and considers the imminent future of this landscape through the presence and disappearance of these lattice towers.
Noritaka Minami is a photographer based in Chicago. He received a B.A. in Art Practice from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004 and an M.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of California, Irvine in 2011. In 2015, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Photography at Loyola University Chicago. He has also taught photography at Harvard University, Wellesley College, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, UC Berkeley, and UC Irvine.
He is a recipient of grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Santo Foundation, and Center for Cultural Innovation. In 2015, he published a monograph titled 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower (Kehrer Verlag), which received the 2015 Architectural Book Award from the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany. Solo exhibitions of his works have been held at Kana Kawanishi Gallery (Tokyo), SFO Museum (San Francisco), USC Roski School of Art and Design, UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design, and UC Merced Art Gallery. He has also shown in group exhibitions at Aperture (New York), Somerset House (London), Photo Basel (Basel), Las Cienegas Projects (Los Angeles), New Wight Gallery (Los Angeles), and Kearney Street Workshop (San Francisco). Minamis works are held in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, and Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago.