The Propeller Group; Still from The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014; video, color, sound, 21 min.; Carnegie Museum of Art; A.W. Mellon Acquisition Fund

Captivating new video work opens October 23

The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music
October 23–February 15, 2016
Forum Gallery

Pittsburgh, PA…Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) presents a special evening screening and talk with artist collective The Propeller Group to open its fall Forum Gallery exhibition, The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music on October 22. The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music is a spectacular visual and musical journey through the fantastical funerary traditions of South Vietnam. Created by The Propeller Group, and recently acquired by CMOA, the video follows brass band musicians, spiritual mediums, professional criers, and street performers through the mournful and euphoric public ceremonies of a multi-day wake: a set of colorful rituals that resonate with funeral traditions in New Orleans and other parts of the “global south.”

The Propeller Group; Still from The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014;
video, color, sound, 21 min.; Carnegie Museum of Art, A.W. Mellon Acquisition Fund

Part documentary and part visionary reenactment, the video is a poetic rumination on life, death, and the stages in between. Ultimately, the work speaks across languages and cultures, amplifying a sense of cultural interconnection, and appealing to universal foundations of myth, storytelling, and mourning. Shot in ultra-high definition video, and produced with the technical sophistication of a Hollywood film, it immerses viewers in a lush and captivating dreamlike atmosphere.

The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music is the 76th installment in CMOA’s Forum series. This exhibition is organized by Amanda Donnan, assistant curator of contemporary art at Carnegie Museum of Art.

The Propeller Group
The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014
video, color, sound, 21 min
A.W. Mellon Acquisition Fund

Watch the trailer


The Propeller Group: reception and artist talk
October 22, 2015, 6:30–9:00 pm; screening and talk at 7:00
Forum Gallery, Scaife Foyer + CMOA theater

Join Matt Lucero, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, and Phunam of The Propeller Group for a theatrical screening of their entrancing video The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music (2014; 21 min.) in the CMOA theater. Following the screening, the artists will discuss their work—and connections between the Vietnamese brass band processionals portrayed in the video and New Orleans jazz funerals—with special guest Dr. Matt Sakakeeny of Tulane University.  Cocktail reception to follow in the Scaife foyer.

The Propeller Group was established in 2006 by Phunam Tuc, Matt Lucero, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen. Based in Ho Chi Minh and Los Angeles, the collective creates multimedia work that combines the languages of filmmaking, advertising, politics, and history. As part of its practice, The Propeller Group has cultivated the image of an advertising agency or public relations firm, pushing their work into the broader public sphere while deliberately confusing its brand messages. Recent works include Regional Reproduction (2012), Television Commercial for Communism (2011), and Viet Nam World Tour (2010–present).

Matt Sakakeeny is an ethnomusicologist, journalist, and musician in New Orleans, where he has lived since 1997. He holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from Columbia University and is Assistant Professor of Music at Tulane University. His book, Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans (2013), is a firsthand account of the precarious lives of brass band musicians in New Orleans. Keywords in Sound (2015), co-edited with David Novak, is a critical reference work for the field of sound studies. Matt has published in journals such as Ethnomusicology, Black Music Research Journal, Contemporary Political Theory, and Current Musicology, and filed reports for public radio’s All Things Considered, Marketplace, and WWOZ’s Street Talk.


Support for the Forum Series is generously provided by the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation.

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.


Carnegie Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art, founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895, is nationally and internationally recognized for its collection of fine and decorative art from the 19th to 21st centuries. The collection also contains important holdings of Japanese and old master prints. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the longest-running surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at

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