Thank you, Van Sang, for joining us. The issue of the public was raised by Nora before. The lack of a qualified public is clearly a major problem for artists (where can a jazz musician play in Hanoi today, except in Minh's Club?). But we also can look at this issue from the other side: artist should actively attempt to "conquer" public spaces, rub against reality and seek for dialog with the society. One example: as early as 1992, in China, the project "Raising Red" of Di Naizhang (10000 red umbrellas were positioned in public places of 10 cities) caused very controversial debates. Opinions differed, but with 5 millions people directly witnessing the work and hundreds of articles in the mass media, clearly this project was successful in bringing art into society. Do we have such kind of attempts and efforts in Vietnam?
Veronika mentioned the role of individual. This is an important point, as we know, some individuals or group may have a long-lasting influence on the whole generation or art body. Who are these persons in Vietnam? Nguyen Hatsushiba? Unlike Minh Ha, Nguyen have had several exhibitions in Vietnam. How was his project "Memorial Project Nha Trang, towards the Complex - for the Courageous, the Curious and the Cowards" received? Veronika also mentioned Nguyen Minh Thanh, could you please elaborate your opinion about his role?
In the round table so far, we have talked quite a lot about "foreigners" working in Vietnam or with Vietnamese. I wonder what is their role in the current development process of Vietnamese art. Is it possible that the director of the next national art exhibition comes from Poland? Or the person responsible for Vietnam's contribution in an ASEAN show is from Italy? Can foreigners understand Vietnam and its reality, know what Vietnam needs (the Chinese example of Huy)? Kaomi expressed doubt about the ability to discover of foreign curators, could you please share more of your thoughts?
I am aware that this is a delicate issue for our round table. But I think we, Vietnamese or Non-Vietnamese, are all professional so that we can talk about it clear-headed and free of emotions.
(from the audience):
National value and artistically value
National culture is one of the interfaces of national identity. Culture of the nation is builded from its accomplishment (material and non-material), in which there is fine art
. So that's why visual art is analised in identity research. In some case (ex. USA) when the nation is in the Centrum and influence on others, this national identity is widely accepted as (part of) global identity. From other side, national identity affects on artist's creativety via his subconscious. Then it's wrong when saying artistically creativety has nothing in common with national identity. Furthermore national value is element of artistically value for the work of art. But it's dangerous with stereotype thinking, such as valueing "jewishness" in Woody Allen's works, or "slovenianess" in Andy Warhol´s works - this should be broght up to national extremism.
The same with "vietnamesess", and value, or place of vietnamese fine art on global relation. I think that it's firstly needed a dimension system for comparing, because both eurocentrism and sinocentrism provide to confusion or megalomania and antagonism. From analising the contemporary vietnamese fine art
, I regconised that one of it's significant charater is copying, reproduction with mutation and selection. From the past there was writing code about statue's size (hight, scale, as from the book of Chu Quang Tru http://www.cinet.vnn.vn/nghethuat/0006/index.htm
); today there's repetition of Indochina School pre-technics. It should be explained as character from colonization time, or propaganda period, or tradition of autoritarism. But I found that there's other way of analising, by comparing contemporary Vietnam with the pre-industrial era, when factories based on man power and skill than machine or automatic system. And then it's mostly needed art-worker who well reproduces and be flexible, such as for printing (and paiting) the Dong-Ho or Hang-Trong pictures.
Unfortunately, the audience for Vietnamese art and for art in general in Vietnam is very narrow: artists themselves, a circle close to the artists (their friends, family) and foreigners. General public visits only photo exhibitions and big national exhibitions (the last ones are organized once in 5 years).
The absence of interest and concern in art of general public is explained by lack of information and education: art education in secondary schools is very poor, the museums do not have any educational programs, articles on art in non-art magazines and newspapers which reach a wide audience are usually of a very low level etc..... Can we claim on public then?
Whatever topic we discuss, I think, we shouldn't question the ability of "the other", of "the outsider" to understand Vietnam or Vietnamese art. Yes, Mai Trang, I can "comfortably" say, that I "know the real life environment in which Vietnamese artists" live and work. Or do you think living with a Vietnamese artist since 1983, in a Vietnamese family in Vietnam I miss some knowledge about "the real life"? Or do you suppose that having spent another part of my life in the former Soviet Union, I have to go somewhere else to learn about the particularities of life in the socialist society? Do you hesitate about Veronica's knowledge of "life environment" of the Vietnamese artists? And others even if they have no such experience, why they shouldn't know or shouldn't understand? I get very depressed when almost every day I hear: "They are foreigners, they can't know/understand Vietnam".
I never heard anybody would say same things about a French making research on English literature, about an American specializing in Spanish architecture. Do you expect anyone in Greece to know more about ancient Troy than Heinrich Shlieman did?
Those questions of Mai Trang somehow echo with the doubts of Kaomi Izu in ability of foreign curators to "discover". The problem is not in the nationality of curators; the problem is in their professionalism (knowledge, previous research, intuition, and workstyle, etc.) and in the purpose of the curated exhibition. Along with the real curators (as for Asia-Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia; for exhibition Gap Vietnam, House of the world cultures, Berlin, for Fukuoka triennial and may be for a few exhibitions more), other people come to Vietnam, who are rather organizers of the exhibitions than curators. Of course, they do not try to discover, they just pick up things, which would suit to their purpose (to show French influences through all the history of Vietnamese art -" Paris - Hanoi - Saigon", France; to announce the end of cultural embargo - "The winding river", and so on). It would be good to educate local curators, but the whole concept of curatorial work is still new and is not yet understood and accepted in Vietnam.
(c) Talawas 2002