KVT – Impossible, but worthwhile, journeys

KVT – Impossible, but worthwhile, journeys


I don’t like openings because the press of the crowd makes viewing impossible. Great for socializing and being seen, but for art… no way!!! But I’m really glad that I went to Bui early on Saturday night before the crowd. It was great theater that won’t be replicated during this petite but important exhibition of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s celebrated photographs.

The Opening…

… when you entered the Bui you entered a wonderful space wherein you may have started to feel a detachment from a recognizable sense of space and time. And this is Sugimoto’s intent in most of his work, and was, on opening night, wonderfully realized by the Bui curatorial staff. The textual floor, the dark walls, the moody lighting, the need to peer closely… even the subtle Japanese music.

But even if you missed it, then it’s still worthwhile seeing it in the cold light of day, even if the theater has been invaded by an altar and a busy desk… but then this too might be given Sugimoto’s conceptual approval.


This exhibition is a miniature reproduction (with localized variations) of another in the US in which this American/Japanese photographer cum conceptual artist has prefixed nine reproductions of his ‘Diorama’ series (begun in 1976) with a color photograph which is a photographic reproduction of a wax work, walk through 3D facsimile reproduction in a museum in Amsterdam of Vermeer’s oil painting reproduction of a music lesson set up in his studio as a reproduction of an event in real life. (The Vermeer is from his series ‘Portraits’ which are all cleverly disconcertingly real, black and white photographs of famous figures in Madame Taussad’s Waxworks).

Confused? Don’t be. A lot of Sugimoto’s work is aimed at a visual confusion for the viewer. His famous Diorama images are impossible journeys, where, using light and special cameras, real dioramas in museums are photographed in a manner that the painted backgrounds dissolve and the wax or taxidermy figures take on a presence of reality. It appears that the Neanderthals have been snapped in real life and that the polar bear has been caught attacking the seal on an ice flow.

As some essayists and critics of Sugimoto’s practice suggest, his layerings of reproductivity represent a collapsing of time and a retelling of history, a distancing of the perception of time and memory.


There has been a long standing belief, states a reviewer, that black and white photography has an association with truthfulness… insinuating that the colored image cannot be trusted in this digital and photo-shopped age, and this exhibition further questions that belief with both the colored and black and white reproductions of reproductions blatantly deceitful.

Sagimoto (born 1948) has many brilliant series of work and his latest ‘Lightning Falls’ is a stunner. We are lucky to get this small sample as he usually only shows at places like the Guggenheims.

I always felt that Bui would be able to provide an occasional spark of contention and intellectual rigor into the Hanoi art scene and Saturday evening proved me right.

The title of the exhibition ‘The Origins of Love’ may be as postmodern as Sugimoto’s work and would make a great discussion starter for an art discussion club set up under the same lines as the ubiquitous book clubs… it always makes me wonder why there aren’t a couple in Hanoi where the art scene is so vibrant.

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.


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