It was like rain falling from the sky

War still flows today, like a river, in our imagination. Death and devastation are the mosaic of those news that keep following one another in the newspapers, on the web, on television, on the radio. Death and war are the archetypes par excellence of current events. The regime of this 21st century is precisely that kind of actuality understood just as present tense. Only present tense, only now, just for a while. Like a story on Instagram. War becomes then an abstract, liquid fact that one tends to forget (at least if one is not a historian or memory-making professional). One war replaces the other, in our collective memory. The facts are linked, they become too many or too painful and remain just a blurred idea, perhaps linked to an image of a dying man, of a woman screaming in the middle of a rubble, of a drowned child.
These flashes, these fragmented emotions, tell us about our relationship to war. An unresolved relationship. A relationship based on brevity, fugacity, erasure. -
The last modern but not contemporary war is Vietnam. Before the internet, after the Nazis. It is the last conflict that left a mark in the public opinion and that is still recognized today. After Vietnam, wars have become more abstracts, more routinised, more anchored to specific battles. Despite this, the interest on the progress of the American conflict in Vietnam has become scarce because of its gradual turning away from the title of this new century: the present time.
What remains of a conflict then?
The dioxin remains in the land, a broken territory, hundreds of weapons in museums, unexploded devices in cultivated fields, bomb holes – all of this remains. Above all, the feeling of what the conflict was, remains. The witnesses remain, the memory of those born after 1975 remains. War is fear. The eyes of a woman who used to “jump on corpses” to save herself, remain.
It was like rain falling from the sky.
This is a sentence uttered by an old farmer from Can Gio, an almost poetic phrase. Like the rain. Before realizing what was happening, this country man took this ecocide for the most natural event in the world. We cannot possibly imagine what it means to wake up one morning and see that your world was completely destroyed by a substance similar to water, thrown by some military aircraft. We can still find the words, signs and faces of the war, though, because they are frozen there.
Photography can be art and can document. It has the ability to tell and remember. To report and abstract. Putting together photographs to construct a narrative is something very similar to the elaboration of memory. This is the reason why my work starts from an observation: we have a desperate need to rework the memory of the war, because we have to understand it. --- Here is Vietnam, today.
Photographs, documents, graphic elaborations, ideas and testimonies. A jigsaw puzzle, of which sometimes I still find it hard to decipher the meaning but which on other occasions seems to me to make sense. A mosaic that feeds on literature and cinema. Of memories and confessions. Of secret documents and ancient myths. The constellation of narratives about Vietnam is boundless. A jigsaw puzzle that I did not want to frame but a moment before hanging it, I decided to feed our imagination with.

Nicola Bertasi