A reflection of a person looking into a mirror, their face partly obscured by a colorful smear on the glass

Diane Severin Nguyen, Tyrant Star (detail of film still), 2019, Carnegie Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund © Diane Severin Nguyen

Diane Severin Nguyen: Tyrant Star


This iteration of Carnegie Museum of Art’s online exhibition series features Tyrant Star, a 16-minute video work by artist Diane Severin Nguyen (American, b. 1990). It marks the first time that the work, a new acquisition, will be exhibited at CMOA.

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.

Diane Severin Nguyen: Tyrant Star is organized by Hannah Turpin, curatorial assistant for modern and contemporary art and photography.

About the Artist

Diane Severin Nguyen is an artist who uses photography and time-based media to transform natural and inanimate objects into something uncanny. She currently lives and works between Los Angeles and New York. Nguyen earned an MFA from Bard College in 2020 and a BA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. Her work will be included in the forthcoming exhibition Made in L.A. 2020: a version at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. She has had solo exhibitions at Bad Reputation, Los Angeles (2019) and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong (2019). Tyrant Star has been screened at Yebisu Festival, Tokyo (2020); IFFR Rotterdam, Netherlands (2020); and the 57th New York Film Festival, New York (2019).

Exhibition Images

Video still from with title text that reads
A profile portrait of a person wearing large, bright headphones and standing in front of gauzy curtains with light seeping through
Video still showing a wooden footpath raised above a pond filled with lily pads
Video still looking down at young person with photo of students and a handful of drawings
Close up of bright stars suspended in gelatin and lit from behind
Video still with a detail of a Durian fruit split in half and caption
Video still with close up detail of a Durian fruit with its fibers pulled apart and a caption that reads
Video still of a cityscape at dawn.
A reflection of a person looking into a mirror, their face partly obscured by a colorful smear on the glass

About the Online Exhibition Series

A first in the museum’s history, this series is dedicated to the museum’s film and video collection. This extension of the museum’s curatorial program into the digital sphere offers a new channel for local and global audiences to experience time-based works previously only accessible in-person. With this initiative, CMOA is revolutionizing how visitors can engage with its significant holdings at a time when most cultural institutions are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

About Film and Video at Carnegie Museum of Art

The Department of Film and Video was among the first of its kind when it opened in 1970 as a three-year venture led by Sally Dixon, eventually growing into a full-fledged department that garnered national and international attention. In its first twenty years, the department worked with more than 150 artists including Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Joan Jonas, Carolee Schneemann, Hollis Frampton, Roger Jacoby, Bruce Conner, and Yvonne Rainer. The department was incorporated into the museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2003, including its significant collection of nearly 1,000 film and video works.


General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Premier Partners