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Nghệ thuậtBàn tròn "Mĩ thuật đương đại Việt Nam đang ở đâu"
22.10.2002
Nora Taylor, Natalia Kraevskaia, Nguyễn Như Huy
Talawas round table "Contemporary Vietnamese art in the international context"
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Nora Taylor: Thanks to your thoughts, Veronika. I agree with you. I did not mean to imply that artists perpetuated the "tourist" label because they created "mediocre" art or because they complied with the demand. Of course artists should make a living and I would never suggest that artists who make a good living from their art are in any way "inferior" morally or ethically from those who chose not to. In Vietnam, there are quite a few problems generated by the influx of money from foreigners into the local market but I also think that it is to the credit of the artists that the local market has been successful. This said, I fault the international community for placing "Vietnam" first in their discussions of Vietnamese art rather than seeing something more individual about the artists themselves. You are right national culture is extremely important but when art critics and art collectors start talking about Vietnamese art simply because it is Vietnamese, I think there is a problem. I personally would not want my own work or research or personality be reduced to my own ethnic-nationality so I imagine that Vietnamese artists are the same.
(22.10.02)

Natalia Kraevskaia: First, if we shall take Documenta as a point of counting out, would there be many/any Vietnamese artists whose work will correspond to Documenta level? I think Nora is right: the artists' perpetuation with the ethno-national notions binds their creativity. The art from such show like Documenta deals mostly with global concepts and ideas, if there are national or local issues they are connected to the global context and thus attract the worldwide public. In Vietnamese contemporary art concepts of national identity and concept of beauty (dep) prevail and make the artists' vision quite narrow. The question of international value of art proposed by Veronica is quite complex, but as she mentioned herself there are a few components: cultural, personal - not only national.

Second, why the question "have we really the individuals showing up in international art scene" arises? Yes, we have a few such individuals. But who knows about them in Vietnam and who cares? Narrow circle of artists-friends? Their success is hushed up - not enough press-coverage, no promotion. Their inclusion to important art events is not appreciated because nor art community(in general) neither art administration can distinguish level/ range/ importance of that or another show. For majority of artists and clerks from Ministry of Culture "Documenta" or small show in a cafe in Paris is almost the same since both are "abroad"!!!!

Third, and even when some artists had been invited to big Asian exhibitions, why later only a few of them get international exposure? Here we can again address to Nora's conclusion. Who of them can overstep national limitations? I can give only 2-3 names of those who don't exploit their " vietnameseness" and don't build up their career on Vietnamese themes.

Finally, what's about the international curators, not many of them come to Vietnam to
discover local talents. And since contemporary Vietnamese art got a bad reputation because of its commercialization, they, probably, apriori decide that here they can't find something fresh and exciting.
(22.10.02)

Nguyen Nhu Huy: To not waste any time, I'll go directly into the issue.
As a working artist, I have a few subjective observations. To me, what is lacking in Vietnamese art is the fact that it is not recognized and approached in its own language. It can be said that the making of art and the appreciation of art in its own proper language is a matter of the utmost importance for the artist as well as the public. Artists need to understand clearly the language they are using so as not to waste materials and emotions while getting to what they are saying in the most direct way. The public needs to understand the language they are appreciating so as to recognize the message that the work (in whatever form) is trying to communicate.

An advance in any form of art is an advance in the language of that form of art. And similarly, a regresssion in any form of art is the obsolescence of the language of that form of art.
It is no different from the case of a farmer needing to know the weather, the seasons and his plow. An artist also needs to understand the means that he is handling. (I apologize to those who would rather not have farmers compared to artists, that was only a coincident).

The approach (in making and appreciating) of art using an improper language creates an artistic climate that is unprofessional, with false values that inevitably lead to false solutions.

Only a view from within, an examination of the progress in the language of art, will help artists to find solutions to push their art forward, and to help critics and the public correctly identify the relevant issues. I have a feeling - through the postings in this forum, through the disappointments and hopes conveyed - that the main issues concerning contemporary Vietnamese art have not been remarked upon.
(22.10.02)

© Talawas 2002