Monday, March 7, 2011

Video Projections from Vietnam

Việt Nam Phở Sho



MARCH 9-19


South China Sea Pishkun 2009, 6:30min by Đỉnh Q Lê

Spring Comes Winter After 2009, 4:03min by Nguyễn Trinh Thi

Memories 2007, 5:22min by Nguyễn Như Huy

Uh.... 2007, 6:17min by The Propeller Group

Red Etude (Khúc Luyện Đỏ) 2009, 5:00min by Nguyễn Minh Phước



Moving Forwards and Backwards 2009, 12:00min by Tran Luong

Spray It, Don’t Say It! 2006, 20:00min by The Propeller Group


As with the rest of the Southeast Asian region, Vietnam has seen a spiked increase of video production in the past decade, courtesy of the wide introduction of cheap video technology, pirated DVDs and software, and easy access to the internet. The new material produced in this period explore new technical, thematic and conceptual territories, coupled with new ways of distribution, which provide an interesting contrast to a local educational system still falling short on contemporary art and video education.

Việt Nam Phở Sho is a sampler of this phenomena, in the form of a series of exhibitions and screenings that survey Vietnam's best video work from the past five years, as represented by some of the most interesting artists, spaces and initiatives working with the video medium. This project aspires to be an introduction that will hopefully spark the first of many collaborations between the Philippines and Vietnam.

Hanoi DOCLAB starts it off with video art and experimental documentaries culled from the material they produced since it's inception in 2009, as collected in a two-volume screening program. Ho Chi Minh City independent art space Sàn Art contributes A twist of the past for the present, five single-channel installations by four artists and one collective, on view at the UPFI Ishmael Bernal Gallery and Green Papaya Art Projects. In between are special screenings of select works at UPFI's videotheque and Green Papaya Art Projects.


The contemporary cultural landscape of Vietnam is provocatively engaged in these five short videos presented by San Art. In these works, the residue of military control is nuanced in Red Etude by Nguyễn Minh Phước; the gradual demise of folk traditions is musically referred in Memories by Nguyễn Như Huy; the lament of lost knowledge and youth is repetitively in rewind with Nguyễn Trinh Thi; the irony of the Vietnam War and the symbols/narratives of survival is animated with Đỉnh Q Lê and the contentious usage of public space in Vietnam is graffitied with Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn and Phù Nam Thúc Hà. This body of work was first screened in London at TATE Modern in May 2010 as part of San Art's participation in No Soul For Sale 2.

South China Sea Pishkun by Dinh Q. Lê | 6:30 min | 2009

This video is Lê’s first animation, and it turns on the liberation of Saigon on April 30, 1975, which precipitated the infamous and chaotic evacuation of the remaining U.S. presence by helicopter. Hundreds of helicopters fled in panic out to the South China Sea in hopes of landing on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. An unknown number of them crashed, or were pushed off over-burdened carriers into the sea. The helicopter, that ubiquitous wartime machine with its ominous trademark sound became practically synonymous with Vietnam because of its wide use – and widespread failure – during the conflict. Between 1962 and 1973 alone, almost five-thousand U.S. helicopters fatally crashed, with fully half of these due to mechanical failures.

In Lê’s meticulously clean, hyper-real animation, rough waters lie in wait to claim metal wreckage as helicopter after helicopter falls into the sea. The helicopters are without pilots; some hover, struggling desperately to maintain above the waters before finally giving in; some seem like lifeless masses thrown violently from a merciless sky, while still others dive into the waters with a suicidal mania. In a spectacular, never ending display, the U.S. war machine, once symbolizing American might and technical prowess, fails over and over and over again. (Hong-An Truong)

Dinh Q. Lê was born in Ha-Tien, Vietnam in 1968. He received his BA in Art studio at UC Santa Barbara in 1989 and his MFA in Photography and Related Media at The School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1992. In 1993, Lê returned to Vietnam and settled in Ho Chi Minh City. Much of Le’s art focuses on the history and experience of war, examining its affect on ideas of cultural memory and loss. His work has been exhibited world wide and is included in major public collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In June 2010, his work ‘The Farmers and the Helicopters’ premiered at MoMA, New York. Dinh Q Le is co-founder of the Vietnam Foundation for the Arts and San Art.

Spring Comes Winter After by Nguyễn Trinh Thi | 4:03 min | 2009

In ‘Spring Comes Winter After’ 2009, Thi observes the funeral of Le Dat, a Vietnamese poet who was part of a 1950s literary and intellectual movement in Northern Việt Nam called ‘Nhan Van-Giai Pham (Humanism and Works of Beauty)’, which criticized life under communism. He was later banned from publishing for three decades, and it was not until 2007 that the Vietnamese government decided to grant him a prestigious national award in an effort to reconcile the grievances of the past. Nguyễn states ‘As the avant-garde artists like this poet were forced to be silent, Vietnamese art and literature suffered decades of decay’. In this short documentary film,the eye of her camera focuses on the grief of those in attendance of the funeral of this celebrated poet, many of whom are Việt Nam’s contemporary established writers and intellectuals, Thi’s camera however rolls time in reverse, the procession of people reverentially moving around Le Dat’s coffin depicted in rewind. This reversal of time could refer to Thi’s many interviews with Le Dat before he died where he once said that it was a common feeling among many of his generation that his youth was completely lost and wasted away. By reversing time in ‘Spring comes Winter after’, Thi wishes his youth to be returned to him. (Zoe Butt)

Thi Trinh Nguyễn (b. 1973, Hanoi, Vietnam) possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Russian and English, Hà Nội Foreign Studies College, Hà Nội; Masters, Professional Journalism, University of Iowa; and a Masters, Pacific International Affairs. She has produced 5 short films that have been screened in China, Italy, France; Cambodia, Việt Nam, Poland, Brazil and the US. Recent art exhibitions of her work include ‘10+’, Nha San Studio, Hà Nội, Vietnam, 2008; ‘Strategies from Within: An Exhibition of Vietnamese and Cambodian Contemporary Art Practices’, Ke Center for Contemporary Arts, Shanghai, China, 2008 and ‘In the course of our exchange’, Yunart Contemporary Art Gallery, Kunming, China, 2008. In 2007, Nguyễn founded ‘Hi-DEFF’, to encourage independent filmmaking in Vietnam and collaborations among artists, filmmakers and others that holds biweekly documentary and experimental film screenings in Hà Nội. Hi-DEFF was later incarnated as ‘Hanoi DOCLAB’, and now operates under the auspices of the Goethe Institut Hanoi.

Memories by Nguyễn Như Huy | 5:22 min | 2007

Across the diverse Asian continent, the struggle for its contemporary society to reconcile its traditions with the pace of modern life is an every day dilemma. In Vietnam, many artists attempt to engage this tug-o-war with the past. How to innovate tradition so that it's meaning and value is transferred to contemporary ways of living? For Huy, art is both a visual and a textual way of re-engaging a community's historical memory. In 'Memories', 4 people each play a different Vietnamese traditional instrument. They are performing 'Ca Tru', an ancient form of song in Vietnam. According to custom, each instrument performs like a character in a play, never 'singing' at the same time. However in Huy's version, each musician plays their own melody as if oblivious to the presence of others in the room, thus altering the form of this traditional composition. These 4 people are part of the same family, each struggling to maintain full-time work whilst continuing their studies of this national art form. Through this work, Huy asks how can the memories of our past and desire for a future coalesce in a present with equal voice?

Nguyễn Như Huy was born in 1971, in Hanoi. He lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. Huy is one of the very few writers who has translated texts on contemporary art into Vietnamese. He is also a curator and a musician. In 2010, he founded Zerostation in Ho Chi Minh City, a studio space for exhibition and

residency creating opportunities for dialogue amongst young artists in this city.

Uh... by Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn and Phù Nam Thúc Hà / The Propeller Group | 6:17mins | 2007

The Propeller Group seeks to demonstrate how the culture of Vietnam is changing due to influences from other countries and the impact of the nation’s youth. Graffiti is used as a metaphor to show how the youth culture is trying to adapt to these transformations in Ho Chi Minh City. The word “Uh” is tagged on different walls and surfaces throughout the city. As people pass by on foot or on motorized bikes behind the painted graffiti, we realize that the “Uh” is set on top of the film rather than on the walls. It becomes clear that this is not an actual tag, but exists in an invented space created by the artists. This makes the viewer question whether the cultural and physical change occurring in Vietnam is also real or simply perceived.

The use of graffiti and English words exemplifies the loss of cultural identity and native traditions in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Graffiti is spontaneous and uninvited, the antithesis of what the socialist Vietnamese government allowed. It is unscripted, loose, and in sharp contrast to the orderliness that was imposed on the Vietnamese. The inclusion of non-traditional elements such as graffiti illustrates how individuality is currently manifested in a country where personal expression was barred by the government. Looking at the

idiosyncratic interruption of graffiti, the viewer can extrapolate how individual personalities are impacting the visual and cultural landscape of the country.

Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn and Phù Nam Thúc Hà founded The Propeller Group (TPG) in 2006 along with fellow artist Matt Lucero. TPG uses media production and popular culture through advertising, television, and cinema to publicize art projects. Their projects combine the ideas of “collapsing media strategies of power, distribution, and access to information as well as issues of public versus private space within the development of sub-cultures and popular cultures.”

Red Etude (Khúc Luyện Đỏ) by Nguyễn Minh Phước | 5 min | 2009

The human condition has been of central focus to much of Nguyễn Minh Phước's conceptual work, which embraces installation, sculpture and video. Compelled to make art that addresses the social gap between rich and poor, between social elite and social downtrodden, between those who are considered intellectuals, military men or humble laborers, much of Phước's work questions governance and control. Critical of the way in which his country's progress lacks an awareness of its own past, a kind of endemic attitude of complacency, 'Red Etude' 2009 draws on several cultural narratives of Vietnam. A woman, dressed in military uniform and waving a red flag, dances the forms of 'tai chi', a Chinese form of meditation that believes body movement moves inner spiritual energies. In the background, black and white footage of Hanoi weaves yet another story of this military clad, traditional dance. People are shown protesting, giving alms, staring blankly in desolation, moving busily with ambiguous purpose – all of these juxtapositions are deliberate visual ploys by Phước who asks us to think harder about the contemporary identity of Vietnam.

Nguyễn Minh Phước was born in 1973, in Hanoi where he continues to live and work. From 2003 - 2008, Phuoc started RYLLEGA, a contemporary experimental art space in Hanoi. RYLLEGA activities now operate on a project-by-project basis between Berlin and Hanoi.

(videos selected by Zoe Butt)

Zoe Butt is a curator and writer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She is Co-Director of San Art, Vietnam’s most active independent art space and reading room. She is also currently Curatorial Manager of Post ViDai, the only private collection of contemporary Vietnamese art in the world. Previously she was Director, International Programs, Long March Project – a complex, multi-platform, international artist organization and ongoing art project based in Beijing, China. From 2001-2007 she was Assistant Curator, Contemporary Asian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia where she assisted in the development of the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT); key acquisitions for the Contemporary Asian art collection, and other associated gallery programs.

Sàn Art is an independent, artist-run exhibition space and reading room located in Ho Chi Minh City. Dedicated to the exchange and cultivation of contemporary art in Vietnam. We aim to support the country’s thriving artist community by creating opportunities that provide exhibition space, residency programs for young artists, lecture series and an exchange program that invites international artists/curators to organize or collaborate on exhibitions.

Dinh Q. Lê, Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn, Phù Nam Thúc Hà and Tiffany Chung founded San Art in October 2007.


Moving Forwards and Backwards by Tran Luong | 2009 | 12 min

Artst and curator Tran Luong tries to address the Vietnamese in the context of regional experience and art. In 2006, he organised a group of Vietnamese artists to create projects in Phnom Penh, Chiangmai, Kunming, Rangoon. ‘Moving Forwards and Backwards’ was one of the projects realized during this period.For this performance in Phnom Penh, they brought toothbrushes to the crowded edge of the Tonle Sap. For more than four hours, the artists brushed their teeth and were joined by nearly 300 people. "We need to have more open and friendly about our memories. That can start from this interactive project."Phnom Penh-based curator Erin Gleeson notes that this 2006 visit to Cambodia was a formative experience for Cambodian artists in terms of expanding the horizons of what was possible in terms of medium.

Much of Luong’s projects, performances and interactive works try to bring art to public places. Luong: "in Vietnam, the long historical gap in education especially for art [has left] so little audience who can reach any kind of high art - it made me think about how to fill that gap."

Tran Luong was one the pioneers of new art in Vietnam through his role with the notorious Gang of Five in the 1990s. He is one of Vietnam’s most exciting artists and one of the few stepping forward to motivate and organize young contemporary artists. His support and dedication for new media art has increasingly led him to curate, besides continuing to work as an artist. In 1998 he was co-founder of Nha San Duc, Hanoi’s long standing and most important independent art space, and founder of the Hanoi Contemporary Art Centre in 2000, where he sat as director for two years. This short stop with the national structure came to an end in 2003, with Tran leaving his post in disgust over governmental corruption. His departure gave room for more freelance curating.

Spray It, Don't Say It! by Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn and Phù Nam Thúc Hà / The Propeller Group | 2006 | 20 minThis documentary explores the underground graffiti scene and the main characters that make up this first generation of graffiti artists in Ho Chi Minh City and comments on the battle currently taking place on urban walls in Vietnam—between socialist murals and posters (the only official public art) and fast-proliferating capitalist advertising.

The Propeller Group—comprised of Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn, Phù Nam Thúc Hà and Matt Lucero—initiate projects exploring collapsing media strategies of power, distribution, and access to information as well as issues of public vs. private space within the development of sub-cultures and popular cultures.



1 comment:

Như Huy said...

hi I'm Như Huy from Vietnam who was introduced in the text above. Thank you for the show and the introduction. However I just only would like to ask you guy to change the address of our website. Now it locates at : WWW.ZEROSTATIONVN.ORG. Thank you very much!