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Nghệ thuậtBàn tròn "Mĩ thuật đương đại Việt Nam đang ở đâu"
Veronika Radulovic, Dương Phúc An
Talawas round table "Contemporary Vietnamese art in the international context"
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Veronika Radulovic: Minh Ha is a good example to speak about the western art world mechanism. In our discussion she seems to be specified as an Vietnamese artist, who has claim herself to an Real-artist and not only as an Only-Vietnamese-artist. Right. I appreciate her work. But, sorry to say this, she is American for me. She could develop and work out her artistic concepts under totally other political conditions as the vietnamese artist. And this is exactly an aspect which we often ignore: political and economic conditions. Yes, it sounds like I would like to give a "bonus" to vietnamese artists.

But my question is: isn't she successful because she lives in the USA? She works with video. She is a femal artist - all this circumstances are virtually predestinedly to success. She is successful because she is an American working on vietnamese issues. Yes, she speaks our language, our talks, understands the market and much more, is disposed of contacts. She fits in our structure. Please don´t missunderstand my words: I am not talking about her work.

We should handle more carefully with the national inheritance. It´s everything but also nothing at all. It goes also very fast to become "Blut und Boden" - specially for me as German in a direction: Are you always Vietnamese or German only because you were born in a national ground? How about artists who are living for a long time in another country? Am I a Vietnamese artist? Weren´t the political situation in Vietnam, the education system, the self-control, the fear and pressure of the artists etc. more important issues to talk about when we are discussing Vietnamese art? Why we are not talking about Vietnamese art and the conditions? Because they weren't on the documenta? Inside an international circle? Do the international values of art develop beside conditionen?
And Natasha, yes, it´s perhaps the same, a café house exhibition and the documenta. In fact it is one of the biggest international tourist events in Germany. Thanks for the praiseworthy mention as an international art exhibition. Indeed it is. Interested in global concepts. Around 120 artists took part. And - what a surprise: 13 artists were Germans, 32 artists from other European countries, then of course USA and Canada with 24 artists followed by South America with 10 artists, Asia ten artists, Australia just 2, same China, and really Natasha, what a shame, Russia: 1 artist! Seems to be a good cooperation between Europe and the USA? Of course, for an exhibition like the documenta, the curator shouldn´t check the nations off numerically after artists. The curator never had the obligation to do so. But the center is clear. Yes, my nation together with the USA are representing most strongly! By chance or an expression of quality?

And back to Minh Ha, shall I count her as one of the Americans or is she one of the successful Vietnamese femal artists? This is the question? Another example is Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba who makes a great career as a Vietnamese artist. I wonder in all seriousness, isn't it a marketing strategy?

Natasha, some Vietnamese artists absolutly could move on the level of a German documenta, however, it´s a bit like Duchamp already said: the context makes the art, and everything is feasible. The painted cows - made by 15 or 20 Vietnamese artists 2 years ago in Hanoi. The cows could have done the world sensation at the documenta, for example. And not only the cows, many art works, videos and installations and more. Yes, I am sure about it. And Natasha, at least one person at the department of foreign relations in Hanoi should know the documenta. I mean the person who gave a permission to an danish artist (participant of documenta 11) to install few electric street light bulbs from Hanoi and inspiring in Kassel. And the other way round. Kassels electric light is shining in Hanoi. I think he will never forget this international request. And the lights hopefully put an noticed sign of a worldwide dialog. I am afraid nobody even realized them. Could you find out if they are in work?

Duong Phuc An (from the audience): Nathalie suggested using Documenta as a reference to discuss the current status of Vietnamese art. At this exhibition, as Mai Chi has pointed out, the only Vietnam-born artist was Trinh Thi Minh Ha, with two video works, "Naked Spaces: Living is Round" (1985) and "The Fourth Dimension" (2001). It can be said that these are ethonological investigations, the first focusing on Africa, the second on Japan. Both belong to the video genre, which is one of the major emphasis of this Documenta. They appear to seek an insider's perspective, an un-eurocentric one, consistent with the decolonization movement, and with the orientation of Okwui Enwesor, the Nigeria-born artistic director of documenta 11. However, in contrast to "Sin Titulo" from the series "Igeniero de Almas" of the female Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, for example, they did not make any special impression or provoke any particular emotion. And in contrast to "Gallantry and Criminal Conversation" of the female South African artist Yinka Shonibare, for example, they did not succeed in provoking a sort of smile of discovery in the mind. Observing art made inside Vietnam, Kaomi Izu has spoken of "the trap of self-created symbolism with a false notion about their village culture." But once freed from a nationalist perspective, would Vietnamese art arrive at the "global ideas and concepts" desired by Nathalie? Or would it become a faint copy of the progressive mainstream, of "politically-correct avant-garde ideology"-thereby guaranteeing for itself a place in international exhibitions. From Documenta 10 of 5 years ago to Documenta 11 of this year, is there anyone who still expects anything more from this sort of international exhibitions? Must Vietnamese artists be represented at these exhibits to be considered relevant on the world scene, and to confrom to a "global aesthetics" that is both so classy and so boring? Or should they do things that no First World will pay attention to, but may contain discoveries relevant to the environment directly nourishing them that is Vietnam?

© Talawas 2002