The year that certainly was
After looking at and listening to the cultural scene in Hanoi for another year…apart from the 12 or so weeks I was away from the happenings… It’s time to give my personal rankings for what were the 5 starrers for me in 2009. Of course I can only include the things I’ve experienced… so if you, dear reader, have your own favorite highlights in the same or in different cultural areas please add to the list.
Not being 100% orally or aurally literate in Vietnamese I’ve had to omit some things I don’t understand but would love to… like local drama.
I’ve excluded all of the imported goodies that embassies and various foreign cultural agencies presented for us and have only considered work by Vietnamese nationals and Viet Kieu and expats who have been here for a fair while. Locals who have presented their stuff in association with visiting artists are also in for the countdown.
So here goes…
THE TOP OF THE POPS AWARD for best cultural event of the year: nothing could possibly compete with the stunning Convergence of Light strung together and lit up by Dao Anh Khanh and friends on three nights in late October. Exhilarating and exciting.
VISUAL ARTS… the best of
Most Impressive: It was a year when installation art shone over all other and I have to call a tie between Phi Phi Oanh’s magnificent Specula in December, Doan Hoang Kien’s red and white Limits in March at Viet Arts Center and extended to perfection at Convergence in October, and Bopha Xorigia Le Huy Hoang’s wonderful coffee grounds and sugar Scarf at Nha San Duc.
Best on Canvas: was a tough choice between the satirical and sometimes confronting pieces by Pham Huy Thong at L’Espace in June and Do Tuan Anh’s Oh! City! at Studio Tho in March. Then you can’t leave out Ta Huy Long’s exquisite watercolors in Once Upon a Time at L’Espace in November; the lyrical oils by Dinh Quoc Vu at the Fine Arts Museum in December, or the self portrait journey by Nguyen Van Phuc at Art Vietnam early in the year.
First Timer: Ta Huy Long wins hands down with his deliciously impish watercolor depictions in Once Upon a Time at L’Espace.
Performance Art: not a great year for this genre but all was finally saved by Kim Ngoc’s very gorgeous piece that concluded the New Music performances at the Youth Theater in October and then by all of those lit up brides in virginal white who demurely offered us prophylactics from glass bowls at Convergence.
Photography: the group project In A City exhibition in Trang Tien in May sponsored by The British Council was very involving and Nguyen Duc Tu’s Down to Freezing Point at Studio Tho in March was by far the best, and most whimsical, individual showing.
Over the top award: has to go to the installation/light and sound/video presentation by Dinh Quan of his very exciting Singing in a Green Field all over the grounds and edifice of the Museum of Fine arts. It was also a controversial piece. The locals loved it and most expats were ambivalent. I loved it.
The award for continued excellence: to Vuong Van Thao whose fossils get more and more intriguing.
Commercial Gallery: Betty Bui opened the Bui Gallery in Ngo Van So in March with elegant fuchsia fanfare. A great group exhibition of new and old work by an interesting stable of Vietnamese, Viet Kieu and Expat artists. March this year may see another stunner from her… and Tadioto which began with a big bang, fizzled a bit, but will hopefully get into top gear and be a place for the unexpected and the unusual.
PERFORMING ARTS… umbrellering dance, music, opera, drama, spoken word and circus arts
Most Impressive: Two Bamboos… I thought nothing could really equal Mon Village presented by the National Circus at the Opera House in February. This fabulously golden performance cum bamboo installations cum music came to us thanks to the sponsorship of L’Espace. But in December the National Ballet collaborated with Swedish choreographer Pontus Liberg and danced a sublime Bamboo Rain to the strains of Bach’s cello suites.
Music: the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra had some wonderfully shining moments with a Norwegian trumpeter, Japanese pianists, cello-ists and viola-ists and guest French and Japanese conductors and under the very persuasive baton of Tetsuji Honna ended the year with two bravura performances. To balance the scales maestro Kim Ngoc was instrumental in organizing a really exciting New Music season at the Youth Theater.
Events: I unfortunately missed the grand Long Bien Bridge festival so I’ll give it a mention in absentia for its vision.
The Great Danes were everywhere and if their culture loving ambassador leaves us we’ll be bereft.
The Swedes filled in some amazing spots with their ongoing programs.
The Gallics and L’Espace were more than wonderful.
Goethe and the Ducs were always there pushing and fostering and innovating.
The Brits and their Council were energetic and persuasive.
The Japanese investment in our classical music was phenomenal.
The Italians were fellinily and futuristically flamboyant.
The Grapevine was invaluable.
Cinematheque was unmissable.
And all you others were more than appreciated.
TO FINISH OFF… the sad bits
The death of Vu Dan Tan left a big space and if there isn’t a retrospective of his work in the pipeline I’ll be deeply disappointed.
The demise of Studio Tho is really regrettable as it showed a lot of excellent work and we can’t afford to lose our more avant-garde galleries.
The shifting offshore of the Dong Son Foundation left a huge hole in the fabric that provided young artists continual, innovative and very necessary access to globalized trends.
NOW ROLL ON 2010…
It’s going to be a cultural year of years and I don’t want to miss a minute of it… I’ve only got one apprehension… All of those fabulous one off performances that are going to come our way will probably be reserved for the grand, the rich and famous, the glitteraties and the bling set, a lot of whom wouldn’t know decent cultural stuff if they fell over it or sat on it… so all you embassies and cultural offices with great stuff on your agendas, spare a thought for us little folk who are the ones who really want to see the shows, not just go to the shows to be seen.
If I don’t get to see the VNSO play and sing Mahler’s 8th live on October 23rd I will be too sad for words… but as it’s on at My Dinh stadium I may be lucky.
|Not a reviewer, not a critic, “Kiếm Văn Tìm” is an interested, impartial and informed observer and connoisseur of the Hanoi art scene who offers highly opinionated remarks and is part of the long and venerable tradition of anonymous correspondents. Please add your thoughts in the comment field below.|