KVT muses on khoan cat be tong at L’Espace
Over the years loads of camera toting and shooting expats and tourists have been fascinated by the stenciled signs that appear on vacant walls throughout Vietnam. Some have even been deluded enough to imagine that their photographs would look great in an exhibition or hung on a wall somewhere in ironic paraphrase of the real thing. Not a few artists have imagined themselves recreating the signs in oils or acrylics on canvas. Most were doomed to critical failure.
The signs, usually khoan cat be tong – translated as drilling, cutting, concrete – with the occasional usurper advertising plumbing and sewerage services, are stenciled, one imagines, in the dead of night, to advertise that if you contact the people on the end of the phone number then they can supply you with jackhammers, sledgehammers, steel cutters and any other essential paraphernalia needed to knock down local buildings.
With the advent of the mobile phone the stencils have got longer and the amount of noise making equipment available has got louder…..and the with that increase a dramatic increase in the hearing impaired population…the totally deaf jack hammerers due to lack of essential safety equipment, and the partial deaf inhabitants who have to dwell in areas that are being continually re-invented and re-aligned. Even in my ‘quiet’ little corner of the city we awoke today, at 6am, to the noise of a house in nearby alley being reduced to rubble and then driven inaudibly speechless at 8 by our neighbors who availed themselves of a handy KH CAT BE TONG to destroy their concrete water tank in order to install a super doopa steel variety. Only two days they said! Luckily I’ve invested in a pair of Superman strength ear plugs that cut the BOOM, BANG and SHRIEK to a dignified farty muffle.
Back to the expats, tourists, cameras and stenciled signs around Hanoi!
Because of my bang and bash experiences over the years in the various Hanoi suburbs I’ve fled from in the desperate yet impossible quest to find a peaceful neighborhood (2 years ago we were certain we had it and they decided to raze a house smack bang behind us so we fled overseas for 3 months only to find that 6 months later they decided to do ditto to its next door neighbor) I was more than a little jaundiced about going to see a photo exhibition that featured the noisy boogers’ telephone numbers.
Similarly after seeing so many doomed and desperate attempts by other E and T artists/photographers in the past on the same subject matter, I unenthusiastically dawdled along to L’Espace to catch Frenchman Lolo Zazar’s take on it all.