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Still from the film "If Revolution Is a Sickness" by Diane Severin Nguyen. Seven people salute in front of a fountain.
© Diane Severin Nguyen
  • Director

    Diane Severin Nguyen

  • USA, Poland / 2021
    19 min.

  • Original language

    Polish, Vietnamese, English

Set in Warsaw, the film loosely follows the character of an orphaned Vietnamese child who grows up to be absorbed into a dance group inspired by South Korean pop music. Widely popular within 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. This dichotomy is further complicated by the significant Vietnamese diaspora currently living in Poland, composed of Northerners who migrated before the fall of the Iron Curtain, and Southerners who came in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Nguyen traces how these layered inner conflicts are reckoned with inside the process of finding shared symbols and naming oneself from within another’s regime. 
Assembling a crew of teenaged Polish dancers who perform original choreography set to music and lyrics co-written by the artist, she looks at both the exaltation and erasure of personal traumas at play in the process of representation, identity building, and the formation of a shared nation space. The melodramatic pull of the spectacle is disrupted by the voice-over, culled from various and often contradictory writings on revolution by Ulrike Meinhof, Hannah Arendt, Mao Zedong, and others.

Diane Severin Nguyen is an artist who uses photography and time-based media. Nguyen earned an MFA from Bard College in 2020 and a BA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions were held at SculptureCenter, New York, Stereo, Warsaw, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Empty Gallery, Hong Kong, and Bureau, New York. Furthermore, her work has been included in various group exhibitions, and her first video TYRANT STAR (2019) has been screened at various film festivals. IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS is her second film.

Production companies SculptureCenter, New York (New York, USA), Renaissance Society at University of Chicago (Chicago, USA). Director Diane Severin Nguyen. Cinematography Diane Severin Nguyen. Editing Diane Severin Nguyen, Jacqueline Kramer. Music Ryder Bach. Sound design Michael Beharie. Production design Diane Severin Nguyen. Costumes Diane Severin Nguyen. Casting Diane Severin Nguyen, Iga Niewiadomska. Choreography Alvin Tran. Production manager Maria Lozinska. With Weronika Nguyen, Jakub Gryzbala, Laura Blonska, Malgorzata Karel, Alina Cholody, Natalia Jankowski, Martyna Siedlarz, Michal Lasota (Voice), My Trinh (Voice), Patrycja Oleskiewicz (Voice). 

IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS was originally exhibited as part of an installation at SculptureCenter, New York and will later exhibit at the Renaissance Society, Chicago in May 2022. The film was a co-commission by SculptureCenter, New York and Renaissance Society, Chicago. 


2019: Tyrant Star (16 min.). 2021: If Revolution Is a Sickness.

Bonus Material

  • Still from the Film "If Revolution Is a Sickness" by Diane Severin Nguyen. Women dressed in red dance in front of a monument.

    Behind the Scenes

    Portraits of the cast by photographer Dawid Misiorny

  • Still from the film "If Revolution Is a Sickness" by Diane Severin Nguyen. A woman dances in front of a music stand.


    “If revolution is a sickness, I wanna be sick, sick, sick” – composition by Diane Severin Nguyen

Program Schedule

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur