Written by Uyên Ly for Hanoi Grapevine and VCCA
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Our Light, a brand new interactive audio-visual art performance by ANNAM Duo and visual artist Cao Hoang Long, co-organized by Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA) and Hanoi Grapevine, will take place on Sat 26 Oct, from 7 pm – 8 pm at VCCA. The performance is free for entry – kindly register in advance via this link: https://tinyurl.com/y45lwq85.
The two producers of the ANNAM Duo, THDC (Vũ Phương Thảo) and Dustin Ngo (Nguyễn Phan Huy) and visual artist Cao Hoàng Long, are young independent contemporary artists notable for their emphasis on audience interaction by using traditional/ethnic cultural materials combined with new technologies and new forms of Western electronic music, lighting arrangements from LED lighting and 3D graphic videos.
On the creation of the performance, the artists said:
Modern people are always fascinated by the lights around them. Our day starts with the light from the smartphone screen, the office computer, movie theater, advertising screen, TV shows, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram,… Technology and advertising helps us reach more things, makes it easier for us to connect with each other, but sometimes it is because of these gaps that we are overwhelmed by information, and disconnected from one thing that we the artists believe is the most important – that is ourself.
Our Light – is a metaphor for feeling and seeing more of ourselves, of our culture because there lie the sources of light and energy waiting to be discovered.
Could you describe in detail the space you will create in the performance?
Cao Hoàng Long: In my mind, the space will be a little religious, a bit futuristic, not an existing but a imaginary religion on light. This is a concept from the story Thế giới người sứ (The World of Porcelain People) – an idea that I will continue to develop and construct over time.
How did you guys combine your music and visual images?
Cao Hoàng Long: Listening to ANNAM’s music, I am more inspired to create the space. Usually I would visualize the space in my head first, then, I listened carefully to the music, studied it and asked questions to understand how the music was created, which helped my visions become clearer, say I ask Dustin, what instrument this is, where it is, how the space there was like, then I would like to create a space filled with that atmosphere, for example, if I hear the sound of Central Highlands gongs, the space should have some elements of that region.
Compared to the electronic music and the visual effects we often hear and see at night clubs, how is this performance different? em>
Dustin Ngo: In clubs there are just visual effects and popular music, they are not telling any story. Music players and visual effect operators don’t know each other, the purpose of the music is for people to dance. The music in the clubs is monotonal, and this is experimental, multi-ethnic music. We will tell a story about another world, with introduction, climax, intervals. In this world, there will be different levels, there will be joy, sadness, triumph, epicism, and sometimes dark, scary and mysterious.
Cao Hoàng Long: In that world, Light is the center, there will be modernistic visual symbols in the space. It can also be the enlightenment of an object, or a certain person. And there are parts that are a bit dark, but there is still light.
Which music materials are you going to use?
Dustin Ngo: Là nhạc điện tử kết hợp với âm nhạc truyền thống Tây Nguyên, Champa, vùng cao Tây Bắc, và một số nhạc cụ chơi tại chỗ như sáo mèo, đàn môi.
Dustin Ngo: It’s electronic music combined with traditional music from the Central Highlands, Champa and the Northwestern regions, and some local instruments such as the Hmong flute, the lip lute.
Why do you want to bring folk music into this world of Light?
Dustin Ngo: Everything has a beginning and an end, the climax and the regress, the regress will come back to the origin of the beginning. Just like life. For me, folk music is the beginning and the end, with which one’s soul returns to its root.
I do this also to make young people become more aware of Vietnam’s indigenous culture, to which they are very indifferent, for example, if they are invited to a Ca trù performance they will be bored to sleep, but if they are invited to a Ca trù and electronic music performance, it will seem more interesting to them, and from that point on people are more interested in traditions, then their sense of culture becomes stronger.
More information on the artists interviewed:
Dustin Ngo was born in 1995 and studies at Hanoi Architectural University. His artistic viewpoint: “In order to reach out to young audience, sometimes we have to trade, that is, change the melody of an original ethnic music piece. For example: In a folk flute melody, there are parts that are not at all euphonic, but we have to make it easy to listen to by cutting, modifying it. Website: https://annamvn.wixsite.com/annamvn/
Cao Hoàng Long used to work at an advertising agency and just quitted his job to become a freelancer. His artistic perspective: “When I release the images and thoughts from my mind by bringing them out and connecting them with the audience, I feel emptied, and free.” Website: https://caohoanglong.com
Translated by Hanoi Grapevine