Click to skip to site content
MOCA Artist Film Series: Diane Severin Nguyen

Still from IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS. Courtesy of the artist.

MOCA Artist Film Series: Diane Severin Nguyen
Tyrant Star, 2009, 16 min.


MOCA Artist Film series is an active and dynamic platform for the presentation of artist films. Inspired by film and video works in MOCA’s renowned collection, the series offers engaging and notable screenings and live programs with MOCA collection artists and beyond. With presentations in the Ahmanson Auditorium, screenings and Q&As feature artists, historians, and critics in dialogue with special focus on experiments in long-form, narrative or feature-length films. Centered in the cinema capital of the world, these programs explore the critical issues of our time and our place.

Screenings of Tyrant Star and IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS, followed by a conversation with artist Diane Severin Nguyen and independent curator and writer Lauren Mackler.

Tyrant Star, 2009
Filmed entirely in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Tyrant Star prompts viewers to consider how cultural touchstones like songs and shared histories are fragmented and woven together in new ways over time. The work unfolds in three chapters, beginning with a view of the metropolis set to Ca Dao, or Vietnamese folk poems, before shifting to an aspiring YouTube star performing a cover of “The Sound of Silence” and concluding with footage of children at a Ho Chi Minh City orphanage. Although each chapter focuses on different voices and perspectives, they are linked by messages of grief and care that remain unheard or misunderstood and by reminders of pain, isolation, and trauma. Nguyen’s camera captures trash-strewn landscapes, quiet interiors, and fragmented bodies, highlighting subtle movements that suggest our surroundings are alive, swelling with the memories of the past.

Set in Warsaw, Poland, IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS loosely follows the character of an orphaned Vietnamese child who grows up to be absorbed into a South Korean pop-inspired dance group. Widely popular within a Polish youth subculture, K-pop is used by the artist as a vernacular material to trace a relationship between Eastern Europe and Asia with roots in Cold War allegiances. Spilling over from first-person narrative into near-abstraction and pop music video, Nguyen traverses the complicated beauty and multivalent forms of propaganda that underpin cultural (and self) image making. Following the screening, Nguyen will be in conversation with MOCA Curator Anna Katz.

Diane Severin Nguyen is an artist who works with photography, video, and installation. Nguyen currently lives and works in New York. Recent selected solo exhibitions include SculptureCenter, New York (2021); Renaissance Society, Chicago (2022); Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Houston, and Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai (2023). Nguyen’s films have been screened at New York Film Festival, New York; IFFR, Rotterdam; Berlinale, Berlin; and Yebisu Festival, Tokyo. Recent group exhibitions have been held at the Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin (2023), the 58th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2022–2023); ‘GHOST 2565 Triennial’, Bangkok (2022); Greater New York 2021 at MoMA PS1, New York (2021); Made in LA at the Hammer Museum and The Huntington (2020–2021); and ‘Bodies of Water: 13th Shanghai Biennale’, Power Station of Art (2021).

Lauren Mackler is a curator and writer based in Los Angeles. Recently, she co-curated the 2020/21 Los Angeles biennial, Made in LA 2020: a version, at the Hammer Museum and The Huntington; co-edited Reynaldo Rivera published by Semiotext(e); and co-published and edited Michael in Black by Nicole Miller by CARA and Public Fiction. Her art writing, essays, and criticism have appeared in exhibition catalogues and publications including Artforum, Art Agenda, BOMBFlash Art, Los Angeles Review of Books, Cultured, and Numéro. In 2010, she founded Public Fiction, an ongoing forum for staging exhibitions, performances, and programs by contemporary artists and writers, as well as a journal with the same mission in print.

General admission to MOCA is free courtesy of Carolyn Clark Powers.

Together Thursdays courtesy of Cliff and Mandy Einstein.

All screenings are free with advance reservations. Tickets for each screening will be released on a rolling basis and become available up to 21 days in advance. MOCA Members enjoy early access to ticketing reservations.

The MOCA Artist Film Series is organized by Clara Kim, Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs, with Alitzah Oros, Public Programming Associate, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

MOCA Artist Film Series is presented by The Edward F. Limato Foundation.

Additional support is provided by and