KVT – Traffic-king in Hanoi

KVT – Traffic-king in Hanoi

Each caption should be another blow to the viewer’s mind and psyche (if you didn’t recoil in horror you’d have to be a callous bastard… the type that apathetically allows the trafficking to continue, or is in cahoots or gives tacit approval to the monsters… or probably someone who enjoys the thought of a dodgy massage or a new pair of expensive, name-brand sports shoes).

MTV Exit Exhibition t13

MTV Exit Exhibition t14

The installation of victims’ hair in glass jars, again represented as commodities with bar codes on top and displayed elegantly as if they are items in a high class boutique, is too powerful for too many words….but suggests a common complicity in human trafficking that we all share.

MTV Exit Exhibition t1

MTV Exit Exhibition t2

MTV Exit Exhibition t3

MTV Exit Exhibition t4

Take the concept and extend it all over Vietnam, you’d have a very sad but powerful set of portraits of the rescued and a tragic display of preserved hair.

What a thing it would be to extend the project and have a main street pavement engraved with the names, and, where possible photographs, of those missing. I still bet that lots of callous pr*cks would walk over unseeingly and even spit over them a time or two.

My thanks go to the artists Doan Hoang Kien and Na Son. Excellent and powerful collaboration…and to the MTV organizers and donors etc.

Please let’s see it again!

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.


  1. Hi KVT,
    I suspect some misunderstanding occurred when you wrote that:
    “….The installation of victims’ hair in glass jars….”
    Please check out:
    from: http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitrenews/lifestyle/hanoi-art-exhibition-features-human-trafficking-1.73401 :
    “Artist Doan Hoang Kiensaid he had gathered the hair of 120 volunteer students from universities and colleges around the capital city.”

    (PS > if the artist did as you report it would be immediately criticized for voyeurism and insensitivity to the victims.)

  2. Well spotted…I wonder if it would be voyeurism or insensitivity if the owners of the hair…or guardians…knowingly gave permission…that is if the hair were really that of the almost trafficked!

    Pity my version of the installation isn’t the real one…but it’s still a pretty powerful bit of work…well in my opinion!

  3. I would think that if the victims gave knowingly their hair for the creation of the artwork, the charge of voyeurism and insensitivity would not necessarily stick (though this might be debatable) to the art as such and the artist who does it, but perhaps then the artist can not really claim it entirely as “his/her art” as it would be more of a form of a genuine protest from the victims themselves, (which does not really translate into art as an art form in principle).

    In general I personally do appreciate activist/political/cause-motivated-art and believe that it has its own place in the myriad of contemporary art forms and artistic expressions, but as a rule of thumb always look very carefully at what is the underlying motive for it, in what shape or form it appears, what exactly is trying to say or saying and finally, what are the inferences from it for the broader public…

    (…I guess we can have a long conversation on the subject..)

  4. PS> in the case of this artwork, the hair donated by students from Hanoi is an expression of support for the cause, which is powerful in itself as it says that the young generation is not indifferent to the issue…

  5. But whose rule of thumb decides? It’s all a bit Catch 22. And in the long run who cares anyway? Conundrum builds on conundrum.

  6. @ fascinator
    Please read today’s KVT dhttp://hanoigrapevine.com/2012/05/kvt-the-drama-and-the-portrait/#more-62879
    which perhaps will be of some help in answering your questions.
    … some more thought to questions of ethics in art perhaps?…and if in the long run you do not care, many others do, especially the ones directly affected…

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