Finally, here is the statement from the wall text at the Biennale:
"Danh Vo works within the tradition of the readymade, combining the approaches or a cultural anthropologist and a family historian to create poetically charged works that address the lingering social and cultural ramifications of colonialism. In 1979, Vo’s family fled Communist Vietnam on a boat made by his father. They were intercepted by a Danish freighter and taken to Denmark, where they settled and undertook the process of assimilation with a combination of resignation and relish. In this vein, Vo’s if you we’re to climb the Himalayas tomorrow (2005) illustrates his father’s eagerness to embrues Western symbols of masculine success: it consists of the elder Vo’s Rolex watch, Dupont cigarette lighter, and United States military ring. Oma Totem (2009), meanwhile is a vertical assemblage consisting of a television, washing machine, refrigerator, and crucifix along with an entrance card to a casino - items Vo’s grandmother received as welcoming gifts from social services and from a local Catholic church upon her immigration from Vietnam to German. As such, it is a monument to her life that also reveals the subtly coercive effects of these well intended gifts.”
It then goes on to describe more about the specific piece presented at the Biennale in detail. However, I think for the purposes of this post, it is more interesting just to see how the context above [short artist bio with description of previous works and process] changes the work by itself, without a didactic breakdown of the piece on view. In four parts, here is context that totally changes the interpretation of the work without nary an editorial word about the piece in question.
There is a danger in needing heaps of context in order to appreciate a piece of art but on the other side of the coin, scroll-by art consumption can be just as problematic.