Written by Uyên Ly with photos from VCCA for Hanoi Grapevine and VCCA
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From 20 Dec 2019 to 23 Feb 2020, the most anticipated contemporary art exhibition of the year – THE FOLIAGE 3 will take place at Vincom Center for Contemporary Art – VCCA. THE FOLIAGE 3 introduces to the public more than 50 art works of Vietnamese and international artists based in Vietnam. Except for one artist who was born in 1979, the rest are quite young, being born in 1986 and later.
With just a few days left to the exhibition opening, curator Mizuki Endo expressed his views on art: “Artworks are always changing, and it is not in their mission to make everyone understand. We are living in globalization, so every work needs to be assessed not only locally, but also internationally. Art, therefore, needs diversity.”
The two curators, Mizuki Endo from VCCA and independent curator Đỗ Tường Linh, agreed on the criteria of diversity and internationalization when selecting the artists to participate in this exhibition. Therefore, participating in this 3rd edition are not only artists of Vietnamese nationality. “The diversity of origin can provide a view that is both of an insider and an outsider, and thus brings about different perspectives and insights on Vietnamese art,” curator Mizuki Endo explained on selecting international artists.
All artists have one thing in common is that they are all currently based in Vietnam. They come from many different places, using many different means of expression. Multimedia artists Andrea Orejarena (Colombian) and Caleb Stein (British) met in the US, then moved to Vietnam to work on a project on the memory of war with veterans and and their families. Video art artist Tristan Jalleh is a Australia-born Malaysian-Chinese. Vietnamese artists come from the Northern, Central and Southern regions of the country, including Quỳnh Lâm, Phan Anh, Nguyễn Văn Đủ from Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyễn Đình Phương and Lương Văn Trịnh from Hanoi, Nguyễn Văn Duy from Hue. (Although the number of female artists is still quite modest at just two.)
Also with the criteria of diversity, there will be artworks of different sizes and formats – painting, sculpture, installation, video art, using rich materials such as clay, computer graphics, photo, video, wood. Notably, Quỳnh Lâm used fresh flowers as a painting material directly on the wall.
Asking questions rather than giving answers
Curator Mizuki said that compared to the previous THE FOLIAGE 1 and 2, THE FOLIAGE 3 will have more installations and will be much different. The artworks exhibited embody the spirit of contemporary, experimental, unusual art, asking questions rather than giving answers:
“I am very excited about the exhibition but also a little worried about the reaction of the audience. So I want to emphasize that there is no single correct way to perceive an artwork. The works on display at the exhibition will raise many questions. In this age of too much information, I think we need to speak out on how to ask and share questions. The audience can also find ways to pose questions to themselves. I think sharing questions together helps us gain a common understanding about the future.”
New space, new audience for conceptual art
Curator Đỗ Tường Linh said that THE FOLIAGE 3 is an opportunity for artists to exhibit conceptual works in a larger space, and have access to a wider audience group: “For artists who in the past can only create small and medium-sized experimental works in their own space, this exhibition is the first time they have to handle a large-scale exhibition area. And more often than not, conceptual exhibitions only attract industry insiders, and is less accessible to the general public. In this exhibition, besides the challenge of exhibition space, there is also the challenge of bringing the language of world’s contemporary art to the local audience.”
Tường Linh also said that this exhibition offered a more open view of contemporary art: “Up until now, contemporary art in Vietnam has been thought to use new media, but this exhibition still features traditional medium such as painting and sculpture. And practicing art forms deemed to be traditional does not mean the artists do not do contemporary art.”
Same as Mizuki, curator Đỗ Tường Linh hopes to help the audience open up a new way of enjoying the work from her view, and emphasizes that it is not the only way to perceive the work.
“Space design” curator and “writing” curator
Both Mizuki Endo and Đỗ Tường Linh play an important role in this collaboration. Đỗ Tường Linh introduced new artists to the exhibition. And while Mizuki was in charge of designing the exhibition space to best suit the artist’s intentions, Đỗ Tường Linh wrote very comprehensive and thorough descriptions on the artworks, the artists, and the culture and history of Vietnam. For Đỗ Tường Linh, she learned from Mizuki how to design an exhibition space, which is very useful for her background which concerns mostly researching and writing about art history.
Both curators said that THE FOLIAGE 3 will feature interactive activities for the audience. In addition to the artist and curatorial talks taking place on 21 Dec 2019, 4 Jan and 15 Feb 2020, there will be a guest book at the exhibition for visitors to leave comments and questions.
Translated by Hanoi Grapevine