Nudge, poke and ponder: monuments, rituals and myth

22, Oct, 2010 (Fri) – 23, Oct, 2010 (Sat) 14:00

Art Hall(B1)

Nudge, poke and ponder: monuments, rituals and myth

Screening List

The Ground, the Root, and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree [Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba│2004│14’30”]

A Film about a Film  [The Propeller Group│2010│5’35”]

Red Etude  [Nguyen Minh Phuoc│2009│5’00”]

Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over  [Nguyen Trinh Thi│2010│30’00”]

Untitled(Uncle Ho is always in operation to the battle with us) [Ngo Dinh Truc│2007│2’30”]

Memories [Nguyen Nhu Huy │2007│4’15”]

The Farmers and the Helicopters  [Dinh Q. Lê │2006│15’00”]

In October 2010, Art Sonje Screening Program examines the current state of Vietnam contemporary art by inviting Zoe Butt who is a curator and a writer based in Vietnam and China. In this screening program, film/video works of leading Vietnam artists are presented and their broader art practices by engaging three particular topics -monuments, rituals, and myth- evident in their work will be further examined. There are seven screening works in total.

Governed by Communist principles, Vietnam has limited freedom of all cultural activities and that situation remains until now despite of the country’s economic progress. Concerning this critical situation with responsibility, many artists in Vietnam have worked through their practices and initiatives on arts infrastructure playing active parts in founding experimental centers such as non-profit contemporary art galleries, life-design schools and reading rooms for critical discussion and display of films.

1)  The Ground, the Root, and the Air: the Passing of the Bodhi Tree

     Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba

Single Channel Video: DVD(NTSC), color, sound│2004-2007│ 14’30”

Courtesy of the artist and Mizuma Art Gallery, Tokyo

One of the first Vietnamese artists to gain international exposure with his video practice, ‘The Ground, the Root, and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree’ is the resulting work from his participation in ‘The Quiet in the Land’ – an exhibition and series of residencies undertaken in Luang Prabang, Laos, in 2006. This film work was produced in collaboration with students from the Luang Prabang School of Fine Arts and is a tale divided into 3 parts: ‘The Ground’; ‘The Root’ and ‘The Air’. It is a stunningly composed work that blends rural and urban local life into a set of complex visual questions about the negotiation between tradition and contemporary trend; between a spiritual or materialistic life.

*Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba(b.1968, Tokyo) currently lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. Jun presents a set of social conundrums that is commonly felt across Laos and is applicable to Vietnam and the broader South East Asian region. He is also the founder of a design school in this city, where focus is on ‘life design’.

2)  Red Etude

     Nguyen Minh Phuoc

      Single Channel Video: DVD, color, stereo│2009│5’00”

Courtesy of the artist

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 Phuoc who asks us to think harder about the contemporary identity of Vietnam.

*Nguyen Minh Phuoc(b.1973, Hanoi) started RYLLEGA, a contemporary experimental art space in

Hanoi from 2003 to 2008. RYLLEGA activities now operate on a project-by-project basis between

Berlin and Hanoi.

3)  A Film about a Film

     The Propeller Group(co-work Superflex)

Single Channel Video: DVD│2010│5’35”

Courtesy of the artists and Sàn Art, Ho Chi Minh City

Drawn to the ways in which information is distributed and the social hierarchies that determine value in cultural expression, The Propeller Group create works that challenge dominant thinking in society – from the purpose of public spaces to the question of authenticity. In ‘A Film about a Film’, wooden beams from an antique Vietnamese home are being moved on to a truck with a voice-over sequence of conversation between an artist and a customs officer. The customs officer is questioning the value and meaning of two toy wooden guns that belong to a museum in Holland.

*The Propeller Group is based in Ho Chi Minh City, composed of 3 members, Tuan Andrew  Nguyen(b. 1976, Ho Chi Minh City); Phunam Thuc Ha(b. 1974, Hue) and Matt Lucero(b. 1976,

Los Angeles).


4)  Untitled(Uncle Ho is always in operation to the battle with us)

     Ngo Dinh Truc     

Single channel video: DVD│2004 │ 2’30”

Courtesy of the artist

A Vietnamese landscape appears with bouncing lyrics at the bottom of the screen. A jumping circle takes us through the lyrics of a well-known political song that has become a popular advertising track for # in Vietnam. The artist has turned this song into a karaoke piece, where the realities of urban life are visually juxtaposed with the political inference of the lyrics. In this piece, the artist asks us to re-consider the relationship between politics and popular culture. To what extent do images and text in our visual landscape create stereotypes and sound-bite messages that are without depth and meaning?

* Ngo Dinh Truc(b.1973, Ho Chi Minh City) currently lives and works in , Ho Chi Minh City.

Predominantly a photographer, with a background in commercial advertising, much of Truc’s    work engages the influence of popular media on everyday life.

5)  Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over

    Nguyen Trinh Thi    

Experimental film project: DVD, color, sound │2010│30’00”

Courtesy of the artist

This project is made by traveling along the northern part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Experimented with a technique known as ‘exquisite corpse,’ the artist attempted to assemble a piece of collective memories, or collective history, a history told by the people. Co-worked with Le Huy Hoang who is a half-Khmer half-Vietnamese artist, they started the beginning part of the story, then asked people to continue telling the story fictionally. The end result is a collective fiction-nonfiction story told with collaborators.

* Nguyen Trinh Thi(b.1973, Hanoi) currently lives and works in Hanoi. Thi is a filmmaker and video  artist, with a background in journalism. In 2009 she founded ‘Doclab’, a center/lab for documentary filmmaking and video art based at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi.

6)  Memories

     Nguyen Nhu Huy

      Single Channel Video: DVD, color, sound│2007│4’15”

Courtesy of the artist

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. Through this work, Huy asks how the memories of our past and desires can coalesce into an equal voice in the present.

*Nguyen Nhu Huy(b.1971, Hanoi) 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.


7)  The Farmers and the Helicopters

     Dinh Q. Lê    

Three Channel Video installation: DVD, color, sound, metal│2006│15’00”

Courtesy of the artist and Sàn Art, Ho Chi Minh City

In ‘The Farmers and Helicopters,’ the symbol of the helicopter stands in for the first ‘helicopter war’ (Vietnam War) but it also represents hope and resilience. Interviewing local people who directly experienced these machines during the war, Dinh weaves a tale of wonder through the emergence of a new Vietnam – one that particularly embraces the tenacity of a farmer and his desire to build his own helicopter.

*Dinh Q Le(b.1968, Ha Tien) lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. He is co-founder of San Art and  also founder of the Vietnam Foundation for the Arts (based between Ho Chi Minh City and Los  Angeles). He rose to fame in the mid 1990s for his photo weavings, merging Vietnam cultural  memory with the popular filmic images of Hollywood and its perception of Vietnam.

*Zoe Butt is curator and director of Sàn Art, Vietnam’s most active independent art space in Ho Chi Minh City. For over 10 years she has been researching contemporary Asian art, working with a cross-section of rising contemporary Asian artists, curating numerous exhibitions as well as contributing to various international art publications that have reflected the dynamic art of this region. Currently, she works as curatorial manager of Post ViDai.

22, Oct, 2010 (Fri) – 23, Oct, 2010 (Sat) 14:00
Art Hall(B1)