KVT wants to give a standing ovation
In November, 2010 I was totally engrossed with Nguyen Trinh Thi’s video installation ‘Unsubtitled’ …..unsubtitled because eating needs no explanation…and I still rate it as one of the best art pieces I’ve seen in Vietnam.
It was the first of a series of performance videos mounted by Thi. The second one, ‘Que Faire’ (2012)- with an artist statement that it’s about undressing as an act of thinking- has not yet been publicly exhibited in Hanoi though some may have seen it on a small screen at Manzi and realized its enormous potential.
The third, ‘Solo For A Choir’, is now showing at Goethe and is another 10 out of 10 art piece. As in’Unsubtitled’, the actors, 18 of them, are projected on to life size, silhouette screens scattered throughout the gallery. Four characters are paired and the rest are on individual black screens. The artist has a self portrait role. One actor plays a role on two screens. Those familiar with the series will recognize that many of the actors are in all three. All are artist colleagues of Nguyen Trinh Thi. Some talk, some are silent. Most who verbalize do so in Vietnamese. One talks in English
The soloists (and duos) are screened on loops that start and finish at different times and are of differing durations in a continuous show that totally absorbed me for a couple of hours . Luckily I was able to walk amongst the performers and this made the experience intimate and at times very confronting, as if I was invading usually guarded personal spaces.
The characters, all seemingly auditioning for a part of the choir of life that has no set manuscript, are caught in personal spaces, contemplating, talking to themselves, fiddling with objects, talking about themselves, reading aloud, and just being- for long durations. At times it appears that some characters are listening to each other, being involved in each other’s lives and it is a bit of a shock and a revelation that each person or duo are individual, isolated islands.
To be in the audience is to be a voyeur, but a voyeur of life. It’s both a fascinating and contemplative experience.
Cinematography was done by Jamie Maxton-Graham and one wonders if the subjects were filmed with camera operator present or with the camera on remote. All the characters have an invisible aura of vulnerability surrounding them and it this that gives the video great pathos-in a compassionate and empathetic sense.
At times I felt that I was involved in a psychodrama and at others in the dramatic theater of real life.
As the week’s exhibition progresses the video installation will start to include the actual performers in hour long performances in amongst the installation that may reflect their filmed role, or another role they decide upon. Thus the video combines with performance art….becoming .experimental theater that promises to be really exciting. I’ll be a fairly constant visitor from the 25 to the 27 and will hopefully have one of those wonderful experience where-in I enjoy exhibitions the most- when I’m a lone soloist, or a voyeur in a dark space watching the reactions of other visitors as well as Thi’s drama that loops and reloops all day long.
Another excellent experience will be on the evening of the 28th when all characters will be present in the performance arena before a talk by the artist…..which will be another excellent event as Thi is an internationally recognized film and video maker and. I feel, on the cusp of international success at major art events.
I visualize the three performance videos in the series being screened concurrently in adjoining or overlapping spaces at a major art museum. It would be stunningly good. And if the audience had room to walk amongst and sit with the 2D performers the experience would be memorable
‘Solo For A Choir’, in my opinion, will rank amongst the top of the top art events seen in Hanoi this year and is totally unmissable in all its guises.
Thi always manages to make watching video art a compelling and enjoyable experience.
Once again my thanks to Goethe and the Danes for giving us the chance to be amongst excellence.
Images and video courtesy Jamie Maxtone-Graham.
“SOLO FOR A CHOIR Installations” was sponsored by The Denmark-Vietnam Cultural Development and Exchange Fund (CDEF)
|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.|