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The living need light, the dead need music



The Propeller Group

United States of America, Vietnam

2006 - 01 Mar 2016


Produced by artist collective The Propeller Group, 'The Living need light, the dead need music' combines the genres of documentary, music video and feature-length film with the sound of Vietnamese mourning refrains and a marching band to take audiences on a fantastical funeral procession from the urban laneways of Ho Chi Minh City to the waterways of the Mekong delta.

The Propeller Group were established in 2006 by Phunam Thuc Ha (b1974, Vietnam), Matt Lucero (b1976, United States) and Tuan Andrew Nguyen (b1976, Vietnam). Adopting the guise of an advertising firm, the trio — who describe themselves as a platform for collective thinking and coordinated actions — continue to delight and confuse as they blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. With dual headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Los Angeles, California, The Propeller Group worked with cross-disciplinary practitioners across two continents to produce this work. The artists say:

‘This work is a visual and musical journey through the fantastical funeral traditions and rituals of southern Vietnam that pulsate in the same vein throughout Southeast Asia. This film merges documentary footage of actual funeral processions with stunning re-enactments that bring the film into the realm of the abstract, poetic and metaphorical – a rumination on death and the lives that pay homage to it.’


Places where the work was made

United States of America



Media category

Time-based art

Materials used

single channel projection, colour, five channel sound




duration: 00:25:15 min, aspect ratio: 16:9


Roger Pietri Fund 2017


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

The Propeller Group

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
United States of America

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Naomi Beckwith, The Propeller Group, 'If all goes as planned', pg. 16-29, Chicago, 2016, 27 (colour illus.). Images refer to another edition of this work.

Matt Cox, Look, 'Matters of life and death', pg. 41-42, Sydney, Jul 2019-Aug 2019, 41-42 (colour illus.).

Melanie Eastburn, Look, 'The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music 2014', pg.25-26, Sydney, Mar 2018-Apr 2018, 25-26 (colour illus.).

Karsten Lund, The Propeller Group, 'Project: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music', pg. 86-93, Chicago, 2016, 88-93 (colour illus.). Images refer to another edition of this work.

Frank Rose, The New York Times, ‘Is it an art collective or a Vietnamese ad agency? Yes and yes’, New York, 23 Feb 2018, (colour illus.). Images refer to another edition of this work.

Frank Rose, The New York Times, ‘A collective will not be pinned down’, New York, 25 Feb 2018, AR39.

Tuan Andrew Nguyen. Unpaginated., The Propeller Group, 'The mythology of dying. An obituary for The Propeller Group', Chicago, 2016.