In his objects, installations, photographs, and works on paper Danh Võ combines personal experiences from his childhood in Vietnam with the story of his family, their flight to Europe, and questions of colonialism, migration, and cultural identity. A no less important topic of his works are same-sex relationships and, generally, a questioning of standardized patterns of behavior both in society in general and in the art context in particular. Over and over he succeeds in creating works of iconic power.
Danh Võ repeatedly draws on his own history and/or that of his family and involves close relatives in the production of his works, for instance his father Ph’ng Võ. Danh Võ‘s installation at the last Berlin Biennale for example referenced his father. Here he presented in glass wall-cases the Rolex wristwatch his father bought from the gold left over from organizing the escape from Vietnam, the Dupont lighter bought with the first money he earned in his new homeland, and his signet ring. All three objects symbolize the yearning for the Western attributes of wealth, also their global range and presence.
It is not only in high-end consumer goods, however, that Danh Võ addresses the supposed attraction of the material values of the West. Products such as Coca Cola, as cited in his Bregenz exhibition in cartons with gold-leaf-printed wrappings, also tempt and hold out a promise of salvation according to the artist.
For Danh Võ, lettering, language, and work and exhibition titles have a significant role to play and add interpretative levels. This is true of his Bregenz exhibition: When Danh Võ and his parents were looking for his brother’s grave in a cemetery in Vietnam several years ago, he was profoundly shocked to read »Vô Danh« on a large number of the crosses and gravestones. This did not indicate the popularity of his name and a high mortality rate associated with it, though - in Vietnamese »Vô Danh« simply means »without name«: those buried there were unidentified. So when Danh Võ calls his Bregenz exhibition, with ostensible self-referentiality, Vô Danh, he follows the custom of naming an exhibition - yet he also undermines it by calling the exhibition nameless.