: Thank you Natasha for very interesting and sincere comments. I just returned from Japan so I am a bit jet lagged but I did go to Fukuoka and was very interested in the Japanese interest in Southeast Asian Art. In Japan, it is thus not "Vietnamese" art that is of specific interest but "Southeast Asian" art. I won't dwell on the speculations of a Japanese view of Southeast Asia as "primitive" or whatever, that is not the point. What I was interested in was the perspective of audience. We have been discussing a lot about artists and their interest in perpetuating notions of Vietnameseness or not; or consciously inserting their identities in their art or not; and their "marketing" schemes as Natasha says and other ways to earn a living through their art. I am very interested however in the general public. In Japan it seems there is a clear audience for art in a way that doesn't exist in Vietnam. I am not speaking about consumers or art collectors, I am talking about a gallery/museum going public, a mass of people who might also be critically informed about art and use art in debate, discussion in the media etc...The Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art is a museum that is "international" but is really geared at a Japanese audience. Artists go there to find out about what is going on in China, Korea or Indonesia. But it also presupposes an awareness by the public of what kinds of statements are relevant in these countries. Many of the artists shown work with political messages and express anger at their governments and so forth. I am wondering if artists in Vietnam are interested in making work for an "imagined" Vietnamese audience. One that would react to their work, like it or hate it, or be informed by it. I know some artists have used their art as spring boards for discussions about art in general among the general public but these are rare too. It is interesting that the Singapore Art Museum and the Fukuoka museum are keen to collect colonial period art too. Both these institutions consistently buy works from Vietnam and so I wouldn't say that Vietnamese art is NOT distributed internationally, but its audience is so far restricted to Asian museums and western collectors keen on "buffaloes". I challenge anyone to name one Western museum that has purchased works by Vietnamese artists.
Finally to go beyond our discussion about Vietnameseness, I have found that since the opening of Vietnam to ASEAN and the efforts of the Singapore Art Museum and galleries in Singapore and Malaysia to show Vietnamese art, there is also a collective ASEAN identity beginning to emerge in the marketing of Vietnamese art. In Fukuoka, Vietnam was just one of many SEA countries represented.
So the question I have is: what is the audience for Vietnamese art in Vietnam? What is the audience for art in general? In your opinions are artists their own audience or is the general public interested, stimulated, concerned with Vietnamese art?
: Thank you for your contributions so far. It is also very encouraging to hear the first voices from the audience. In order to make our discussion more effective, I'd like to suggest some regulations:
- Please keep your speaking time wihtin the limit (1,5 page size A4, font 12 points maximal!). First, we want to avoid a strike of the Talawas translation team. Second, a limit will forces ourselves to concentrate on the issue.
- To avoid that the English and the Vietnamese version come out with a lag of some days, and postings intercross each other, I'd suggest that you send me directly your message (no more to the group). Talawas will translate your message and send out both languages at the same time. This will ensure that everybody gets the information at the same time.
- To stay focused and keep the discussion directed, we want to discuss one topic, close it, then move to the next one. So far we have mentioned the following topics:
- The international art machinery and its view on Vietnamese art (topic closed)
- Vietnameseness and national character (on going)
- The moral and ethical crisis of Vietnamese artists
- Language of art
- Social-cultural and economical environment and conditions
- The education system
- Curators and curatorial work
- Art audience
Other topics I want to bring up include:
- The role of art critics
- The art business
- The system of museum
- The role of foreigners (in professions related to art) in Vietnam, the view of Vietnamese on them and vice versa (this connects to other topics)
The list does not reflect the time order. You can also propose your topics anytime. The list is long, so we cannot stay too long on one topic, again, please be focused. Also, please send me a short email announcing that you want to contribute, e.g "will send a message the day after tomorrow", so that we don't have to wait for nothing, or move too fast to the next topic.
Getting back to our discussion, and to close the topic "Vietnameseness and national character", as the moderator, I want to respond to Nguyen Hung's last message:
- The issues around "national character" and "integration" etc., although being talked to death in Vietnam, are not a Vietnam-specific concern. The globalisation with its cultural pressure has created many different reactions in non-Western parts of the world. In China, starting in the 90's, heated discussions about the sovereignty of Chinese art and the power and manipulation of the West upon it came up. In Thailand, especially after the Asian crisis, people have rejected "the West" and are looking for "Thainess" (I don't want to dicsuss if they are successful or not). In Singapore, the slogan of the youth is: "We don't want to copy the West, we don't want to be second best". The talk about "Asian values" has been for decades, with no end in sight.
- Unfortunately, in Vietnam, this discussion is totally in the hand of the state and the mainstream, therefore, it is one-dimensional and tiresome. These are the main reasons why I wanted to bring it up in our talk. If our round table can bring some values to the audience, then the fact that we provide them some new information, new approachs, new questions (not necessarily new answers). In my point of view, the judgment that the opinions expressed so far at the round table are similar to the opinions of the Vietnamese art administrators is a totally wrong judgement.
- I don't want to comment on the "throw-caught game" picture of Nguyen Hung. Just one remark: such expressions don't contribute positively to the discussion, and therefore not necessary.
Now continuing with the topic "moral and ethics of artits" I think Nguyen Hung made relevant comments when he said: artists don't have a "independent thinking" and don't have the "character of a free person". Hou Hanru (one of the most important Chinese curators, born 1963), when asked what the greatest value his generation has created, answered "the greatest value we have created is we have became true individuals". Maybe in Vietnam we are in the very beginning of this process? Maybe Vietnamese artists will need some years, some decades, to come out, see the world outside to understand it, to understand the world at home, to understand themselves and become independent individuals?
© Talawas 2002