Ilza Burchett – “Conservation of Vitality” in The Art of Lai Dieu...

Ilza Burchett – “Conservation of Vitality” in The Art of Lai Dieu Ha

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“There is nothing that is ‘unrepresentable’ in the aesthetic regime of art.”
Jacques Rancière

Now on view at CUC Gallery is an exhibition of works by Lai Dieu Ha, titled “Conservation of Vitality”.

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More than just intriguing in its implied profundity, this title-phrase marks the metaphorical horizon of Lai Dieu Ha’s artistic vision at present, by transposing her ephemeral performance art gestures that defined her artistic practice until now, to a material incarnation of her sensibility and thought, through a meticulous, painstaking manual labor on the creation of the body of work she presents in this exhibition.

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This may seem as a radical gesture in itself — a leap from the ‘extraordinariness of the avantgardism’ embedded in the notion of performance art over the abyssal gap between it and the ‘ordinariness of crafting’ in the production of art as a commodity, the way it is seen from that same avantgardist ideological position — were it not for the artist’s meaningful focus on, and, her very careful, deliberate choice of work materials: — mostly actual foodstuffs specific to Vietnam, like the pork rinds prominently featured in her work on show — literally ‘by default’ and as immediate allusions to the mass consumption of commodities and commodified products of human labor.

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In fact this ‘leap’ was never made, as with her works in this exhibition the artist shows that the ideological radicalism of these two polarities, when pushed to their respective extremes, is canceled out by their very absolutism.

In other words the artist chose the use of ‘the ordinary’ in her immediate reality to bring to view ‘the extraordinary’ in creating art.

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Her choice of the ‘typically Vietnamese’, or foodstuffs ‘specific to Vietnam’, organic produce and derived products, convey implied commonality: the act of sharing, of partaking in the same originary, life giving, vital process, thus alluding to the mystery of existence, the mystery of life and of that which is in common — the shared experience of living, destroying, dying, creating.

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In this light, the “Conservation of Vitality” bestows a new form of visibility not only on the act of her artistic gesture by giving Lai Dieu Ha’s performance art an embodied, hard, material form, but also, another aesthetic intelligibility on the ideas in her art.

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Placing her attention on the self-defining physicality of the material at hand, to the hard-edged self-containment of the produced, squeezes out the void into its nothingness, into a poignant absence, which the artist leaves to the viewer to deal with in their own way.

Suturing ideas and act together with her threading — appearing in places of piercing the matter; void in a hole of matter — receiving the vitality of embellished marks, gathered by her logic elements and unified by her artistic imagination concepts… conserving the received strange, giddy beauty of the real in her art.

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Thus operating on the edge of the void, carefully stuffing ‘it’ with the plucked from her disparate interests mythologies and poetics, Lai Dieu Ha’s art is there only to provide (her) ‘guidelines’ to some elusive, but equally obvious truth, her way of conserving the act of its appearance, attesting to the vital force in its existence.

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It permeates the mapping of the landscapes of her artististic thought — seemingly hopping from concept to concept, from one formal insistence on repetitiveness of expression onto another, from an allusion to an indirect conclusion.

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And yet, the works in this exhibition present a coherent aesthetic vision of hard, but nevertheless breakable and tearable apart reality that inhabits its conceptually vast and emotionally charged subject of “Conservation of Vitality”: it makes visible the obscure hidden drama of ‘representing the unrepresentable’ as the main object of contemplation in Lai Dieu Ha’s art.

Ilza holds the deep conviction that there is nothing more damaging than indifference and that only a critique, based on peer to peer assessment of contemporary art practices, is the way to broaden and encourage the creative thought and new original artistic ideas — fostering a better understanding of contemporary visual art and the role of the artist as a creator of cultural values.
Ilza Burchett is an internationally exhibiting artist, now based in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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