(Shortened Vietnamese version available)
Ilza reviews the book “Vietnamese Contemporary Art 1990 -2010” by Bui Nhu Huong – Pham Trung, published by Knowledge Publishing House in 2012.
Well designed soft cover, 224 glossy pages, comprehensively illustrated with numerous good quality photos of artworks and artists (not numbered).
Generally good layout.
English language version with generally good / comprehensive use of the language and presumably (unable to verify) good translation.
Some notable typographical errors of letters and symbols, numbering of topical titles mismatched to pages in the Table of Content and re-phrased titles in the text and The table of Content.
Table of Content is printed on page 223 at the very end of the book instead of the very beginning, (like in an academic paper), which is not a common practice in the publication of books and makes it user-unfriendly.
Indexed and bibliographically referenced.
Structure: Organized in three parts as explained in the Introduction and in the Table of Content.
Review of content:
This book is an attempt to document and chronicle the development and evolution of contemporary visual art practices in Vietnam during the two decades from 1990 to 2010.
We read in the Introduction that the book is a product of a “…simple wish… to gather information, then to make up for the lack of information…”
The Authors point out that the book does not aim at presenting a complete research and record, or an exhaustive survey of the contemporary visual art practices in Vietnam during these decades.
They chose to focus their research exclusively on contemporary art practices in Vietnam as defined by already firmly established and institutionalized abroad general categories in the contemporary visual art, namely: installation art, performance and video art, that found their way in the artistic expressions of Vietnamese artists in the past two decades as a general result of Doi moi and globalization, alongside the longstanding traditions of painting and printmaking, in turn modernizing their content and role in the process.
It seems that the Authors’ choice is by no means random or accidental: not only it streamlines their research task and determines its parameters, but provides them with a specific predetermined criteria on which to base their construct of what constitutes contemporary art in general, and by analogy determines contemporary art in Vietnam.
Part I / Contemporary Art In Definition / opens with two questions: “What is contemporary art? and what does it mean to have contemporary qualities?”, (unfortunately containing a typographical error), compelling the Authors to take it upon themselves and provide the reader with a definition of the term ‘contemporary art’, while arguing their interpretation of it.
The reason for this seem to be in the following:
“The term contemporary art up until now has caused numerous disputes, partly because both words contemporary and modern imply things that are present, occurring and current. There’s a wide variety of art that presently exists in Vietnam, these include folk art (folk adhering to traditional practice, as well as borrowed and appropriated), art in the style of Socialist realism, modernism, and recently experimental art in the spirit of contemporary practice.”