Southeast Sculpture Professor’s Project Spans Generations to Speak About War, Reconciliation



May 11, 2009 – Southeast Missouri State University faculty member Chris Wubbena, assistant professor in the Department of Art, has taken on a project that he hopes will ultimately help bridge the gap between U.S. veterans and the war countries in which they were stationed.

Wubbena’s project, titled “Speaking while Listening,” is an effort to express, through sculptural installation, the experience of a Vietnam veteran’s return to a former war zone.

Wubbena and his father, Vietnam veteran Ed Wubbena, will travel to Vietnam July 25 to Aug. 7. They will visit Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, Tay Ninh and Nui Ba Den during their two-week trip.

Wubbena hopes the trip, and resulting artwork, will be therapeutic for his father, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. The illness has had a lasting effect on his life and on the people around him, according to his son.

Wubbena hopes viewing the artwork he creates of his father’s experience will help other veterans as well.

“This project has the potential to reach many people struggling with post traumatic stress disorder,” Wubbena said. “I hope viewing my father’s experience may open doors for others, and communicate to other veterans the possibilities of reconciliation.”

Wubbena says his artwork will document his father’s attempt to reconcile the past with a new look to the future.

“This trip is an attempt to learn not what Vietnam was then, but what it can be now,” he said. “I hope to break down the stereotypes of Vietnam as it was in order to appreciate Vietnam as a country and a people by revealing the humanity and friendly collaborative exchange in this former war-torn land. This project will help people see Vietnam as a country, not a war,” he added.

Wubbena also hopes his project will allow him, as well as other children of veterans, to understand more of his father’s history and current situation.

The artwork will take the form of a collaborative, multi-media art installation, according to Wubbena. Following the trip, he will create 50 bronze sculptures with drawn and photographic images etched into the surfaces, five stainless steel sculptures with moving digital images projected onto the surfaces and five steel sculptures with audio.

“The use of etching, video and audio is a metaphor of a young man’s memory of a place he knew so little about during war and as a tool to record a new lasting memory,” Wubbena said. “In the end, the finished sculptures will exist as evidence of new ways to reclaim the sites and sounds of Vietnam through the eyes of a veteran, while etching a new, shared visual language between two distinct cultures. By exhibiting these pieces, I hope to engage not just Vietnam veterans, but all those affected by such a war, while bridging cultural differences,” he said.

Wubbena is planning to exhibit the artwork locally, nationally and internationally, and also has plans for a book and Web site once the exhibit is under way.