An interview by Ut Quyen for Heritage Space and Hanoi grapevine
Photos by Ut Quyen
Alexandre Dang, an engineer who used to work at the most prestigious science institutions in France, has found his place in contemporary art world by making his debut exhibition: an installation of a field of Solar Dancing Flowers in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St.Gudula in Brussels, Belgium.
Since then, his artworks have toured around the world to carry out their mission to raise public awareness, especially the young generation about environmental-friendly energy and sustainable development. This time the solar flowers will be dancing for three weeks at Heritage Space in Hanoi, Vietnam (April 14 – May 5). Beyond the aim of educating people, the artist’s recent creations also place audience in questioning themselves: Why are we here? Why are we doing this?, and Does it make sense? Such very essential questions about the meaning of Life are set out to us by Alexandre Dang in a poetic and humorous way.
We had a brief meeting with the artist just before the opening of his exhibition called Light and Life at Heritage Space.
U.Q: Can you describe a little about your work at Heritage Space?
A.D: I want to further develop the sharing of emotion with the public and continue to spread awareness of environmental issues, environmental-friendly technologies, and renewable resources of energy. There is huge potential of solar energy in Vietnam. So my aim is having open discussions with the public through my art talk, my exhibition, and workshop. This is why the exhibition is called Light and Life.
Still, is it very important to see how the public reacts to my work and this time the public will not only be invited to come very close to my work but also to make their own art work. Together with the dancing flowers I also exhibit my solar paintings and two videos, one about my workshop with children involved in making dancing flowers and the other is about the process of making this dancing painting you see in the exhibition.
The painting was created by footsteps of two people, one girl in red color and one boy in blue, and while they started to dance with music and choreography we had this painting. And the video shows how they dance together will be placed next to the painting. You may ask how this links to Light and Life and how this links to solar energy?
U.Q: May I ask you how?
A.D: You see, Life is a circle. And the fuel to make this circle works is solar energy! It’s very basic and you don’t even think about it. You eat and why do you eat? And where does the energy from the food come from? So the most important thing is to question why we are here, why we are doing this, and does it make sense. These questions are not just important for an artist but also for a scientist. We all need to take a step back from society, from everything that are happening around us to ask why. This is how my artwork of choreography dancing related to the theme.
U.Q: You started making art in 2004. Before that point, you were an engineer. What made you become an artist?
A.D: I am still an engineer. I had been working for roughly for 10 years before making my first artwork. During that time, I have visited a lot of contemporary art exhibitions, cultural events in France and abroad, I’ve been to a lot of art museums, and read a lot of art magazines and books. So to become an artist is not a sudden decision like: “OK, now I want to be an artist.” It took years and years of working and thinking and involved a lot of experiments. But I consider that my first real work was done in 2004.
U.Q: What did you want to get becoming an artist?
A.D: Firstly, I wanted to do was to spread out some emotion, some happiness, and to share a sense of humor to audience and sought for their reaction toward my works. If I see some children passing in front of my installation of a field of dancing flowers and jumping or moving their bodies, that makes me happy. And secondly, I wanted to make people think about the main issues in our contemporary world, and one of the most important issues I considered was about energy: how people accessed to energy in an environment-friendly and sustainable way, and in a way that everybody got the electricity that he or she needed.
U.Q: And how much do you think you have achieved in term of those expectations?
A.D: If there is just one person in the world who sees my work and starts to change his or her behavior in a more environmental-friendly way, in doing something in the field of solar energy, or renewable energy, etc., I consider that an achievement. And I do hope there are more than just one person come to think and aware of these issues. Human always does things out of habits. But our world is changing, and we have to change accordingly.
U.Q: How do you describe your life as an engineer and an artist at the same time? Any difficulties when you have to carry on both artistic and scientific activities?
A.D: I think everything is just about how you organize your time, your work. There are no major difficulties for me. And art and science for me are two parts which complement one another to make a full body. This is how I perceive the world in a deeper way.
U.Q: How different do you think art can contribute to raise public awareness about renewable energy compare to the work of a scientist?
A.D: Let’s look at these dancing flowers. You see they’re moving, you immediately understand something. When you question yourself how they are moving, you start to find the answer. If I give you a science book explaining everything about renewable energy, I’m not sure that you will want to open, not mention about reading it. But these flowers will make people think and go to this book. Some will go through it, some will read it a bit more and some even re-read it and start studying and doing things differently. Then I’m happy.
U.Q: In this way, your works are like a bridge that connects general public to science.
A.D: And also, it brings emotions to scientists. I have exhibited these dancing flowers in various places, and some of those were absolutely non-cultural, where there were only scientists come to work. My works put a certain form of emotion, a sense of humor, poetry, some lively movement, and joy to the work of those people who are, in French, very “cartésien”, very rigorous. And it’s really interesting to see how they received them.
U.Q: Thank you so much for taking your time.
About the artist:
1973 – Born in Strasbourg, France
1993 – Paris, France, Polytechinic School, Engineer’s Degree
1996 – Paris, France, Ecole des Ponts Paris Tech, Engineer’s Degree
2007 – 2008 – Brussels, Belgium, Higher Institute of Plastic Arts (ISELP), Student of Olivier Duquenne and Pierre Sterckx
Since 2004, Alexandre Dang has exhibited, given talks and organized workshops on his solar kinetic artworks in many European countries, in China, Singapore, Estonia, Morocco, South Korea, Hong Kong, Latin America, USA, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam.
He is also a sponsor of Solar Solidarity International.