Where is There – There is Here

Where is There – There is Here

Opening: 06:30 pm, Fri 18 Sep 2020
Exhibition: 10:00 am – 08:00 pm, 19 Sep – 18 Oct 2002
Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA)
B1 – R3, Vincom Mega Mall Royal City
72A Nguyen Trai, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi

From Đàn Đó:

“Perhaps, a fundamental source of musical thought in Southeast Asia may be found in nature itself – in its abundance and in its density. And man’s role in that tropical wealth is to accommodate with nature and not to fight it…”

In an essay from 1976, composer and ethnomusicologist José Maceda remarks on the commonalities and divergences of indigenous musicologies of Southeast Asia; on the link between nature and music – between geographical features, flora and fauna, climate systems, and conceptions, minds, belief, the development of physical tools, and the flows of sociocultural systems.

What are the implications – on our status quo – of the links Maceda discussed, when man’s dominance of nature necessitates the estrangement and exoticisations of the idea of ‘nature’? What if there is only one, all-encompassing nature? At the interesctions of unending currents, what is the role of each individual?

A rumination of these questions, ĐÓ LÀ Ở ĐÂU–ĐÓ LÀ Ở ĐÂY (abbv DLOD–DLOD; roughly translated as WHERE IS THERE–THERE IS HERE) presents the works of Đàn Đó and Nguyễn Đức Phương, an interdisciplinary collective working with elements of indigenous cultures.

In 2009, Nguyễn Đức Minh, Đinh Anh Tuấn, Trần Kim Ngọc and Nguyễn Quang Sự met as members of the cast of Làng Tôi. Three years later, following a string of appearances with the play in Europe, the four returned to Vietnam, with further artistic ventures in mind, and thus came the inception of Đàn Đó. A self-built workshop space in Gia Lâm (on the outskirts of Hanoi) became the place for the exploration, research and development of a body of musical instruments made out of bamboo – a popular material in Southeast Asia, pervading both everyday life and sonic worlds.

Their creations include the namesake instrument đàn đó, whose shape is akin to that of the fishery instrument đó, and from which emanates a clear, bright and melodic tone; trống chum – a large pottery vase (chum) used for storing rainwater, now reincarnated as a percussion instrument creating a deep, far-reaching drone; trống lợn: made of the root of the bamboo plant, with its playful, staccatic rhythm, amongst others. The group also pushed further with movement and corporeal elements, combining them with their self-made instruments and those of indigenous communities from around the country (the North-West, the Central Highlands and the South Central regions), within an elaborate theatric framework.

During this period, Đàn Đó welcomed its fifth member: visual artist Nguyễn Đức Phương, who captured the group’s activities through paintings and sketches, in the process finding a paradigm

shift in his personal artistic practice, starting with the usage of soil as pigment and the experimentation with contours, colours and surfaces. Throughout this collective creative process was a reciprocity between sounds and images, material and content, and yet Đức Phương did not seek a fascimile of the external reality, but rather focusing on the spiritedness, dedication and humour of Đàn Đó. Playful scenes of rehearsing, collecting bamboo, making instruments, interwoven with quotidian doings, states of rest, playing around, cooking. Motion–stillness, bodies of human, tree and soil, all co-existing in an indeterminate time–space, but not without visual patterns recalling certain peoples and places, gallivanting harmoniously through the past and the present – folk statues and headphones, mõ and juggling sticks – hinting at a duality that would come to inhabit the artist’s latter works.

2015 ushered in an era of outward collaboration, as Đàn Đó moved their base of operation to Phù Sa Lab, beginning to collaborate with various like-minded artists, developing long-running interdisciplinary projects such as Lời Của Tre (The Bamboo Talk) or Chém Gió (Shoot the Breeze). In 2017, they participated in the SEA Sound project – initiated by artist Nguyễn Nhất Lý – which brought together master musicians and artists from throughout Vietnam and internationally, with the vision to create an indigenous orchestra of the Southeast Asia region. At the same time, Nguyễn Đức Phương started to appear more frequently in the contemporary art scene, through exhibition and residency appearances.

Beside previously-unseen visual works – large canvases, sketches on Dó paper and objects from the time of Đàn Đó’s genesis – through weekly performances, talks and workshops, DLOD-DLOD continues the spirit of open sharing of recent years. A shared studio space will manifest within the VCCA site, dedicated to exchanges and conversations – on materials, instruments, techniques, inspirations – in an attempt to transform the nature of a formal exhibition space. For Đàn Đó, this constitutes an retrospection – the end of an era (considered as “the happiest thus far” by the group’s members) – yet one not tended towards nostalgia, but rather new possibilities. To get there, from here.


Đàn Đó initially consisted of Nguyễn Đức Minh, Đinh Anh Tuấn, Trần Kim Ngọc, and Nguyễn Quang Sự – who met, worked, and performed together for three years in Europe as part of the cast of Làng Tôi (a production co-authored by Tuấn Lê, Nguyễn Nhất Lý and Nguyễn Lân Maurice, combining inspiration from rural Northern Vietnamese countryside – especially in the use of the bamboo material – with contemporary innovations in circus art, music and theatre). Returning to Vietnam in 2012, the four decided to continue working together, as a group. They spent the next three years mostly in a workshop space in Gia Lâm (Hà Nội) to explore, research and develop a body of musical instruments made out of bamboo – as well as ways of performing them, in the context of inter-disciplinary performances.

From 2015, Đàn Đó began working at Phù Sa Lab, a space connecting artists from various genres and disciplines, with an overarching dedication for indigenous cultures. The connection and collaboration engendered here helped sow the seed for a number of long-term projects such as Lời Của Tre (premiering in 2016, introducing the instruments developed by Đàn Đó); Chém Gió (premiering in 2018, built mostly around indigenous and Western wind instruments), and Mai Khôi & The Dissidents (the trio of Mai Khôi, Nguyễn Đức Minh, Quyền Thiện Đắc).

In 2017, Đàn Đó took part in SEA Sound – a project initiated by artist/producer Nguyễn Nhất Lý. SEA Sound worked with master musicians from the North West and Central Highlands regions, and the South-Central Chăm communities, through year-round three residencies and performances at Phù Sa Lab, culminating in the 50-strong SEAPHONY Ethnic Music Orchestra. SEAPHONY premiered in December 2017 at Hanoi Opera House, with a vision towards a Southeast Asian indigenous orchestra. In 2019, a second incarnation of SEAPHONY took place in Hội An, co-organised with the British Council, featuring many Vietnamese and international artists, including guests from Scotland.

In 2020, Đàn Đó has been working towards the ĐÓ LÀ Ở ĐÂU–ĐÓ LÀ Ở ĐÂY exhibition, set to take place at the Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA, Hà Nội). The project constitutes a retrospection of the group’s career from 2012 until now, featuring the visual works of Nguyễn Đức Phương, performances, installations, a documentary, and various writings.


After graduating from Vietnam University of Fine Art in 2007, Nguyễn Đức Phương spent the next ten years to explore and develop an artistic practice based on indigenous and traditional materials/techniques, but not without humourous and gentle ruminations on contemporary life. Ngắm Giấy, Đức Phương’s first solo exhibition, took place at Manzi Art Space in November 2017.

He has also taken part in other exhibitions in Vietnam such as Trông Trời Ngóng Thánh (Nhà Sàn Collective, 2017), Tỏa 2 (Vincom Center for Contemporary Art, 2018), residency and exhibition at A.Farm (2018), In Situ (Manzi, 2019), Xem Đêm – Càng Đêm (Manzi, 2020 – in collaboration with architect Nguyễn Hà), etc. Aside the body of works surrounding Đàn Đó, Phương was also in charge of stage design for the group’s performances such as Lời Của Tre or Chém Gió.


Featuring the visual works of Nguyễn Đức Phương
And musical works and performance of Nguyễn Đức Minh, Đinh Anh Tuấn, Trần Kim Ngọc,
Nguyễn Quang Sự
Production: Trần Duy Hưng, Đinh Thảo Linh
Texts: Phan Cẩm Thượng, Trần Duy Hưng
Graphic design: Nguyễn Linh Chi
Documentary film: Nguyễn Duy Anh, Đào Thu Uyên, including footage shot by members of Đàn
Additional video footage: Nguyễn Tuấn Anh
Photos: Bình An, Vũ Hạ
Technical setup: Hoàng Văn Việt, Vũ Văn Hy Vy
Costume: Vì Thị Thu Trang Translation: Đinh Tuấn Nghĩa

The exhibition is co-organised by Đàn Đó and VCCA, with the support of the British Council in Vietnam via the FAMLAB Fund (Film–Archive–Music) initiative, part of the Heritage of Future Past programme

Follow updates on event’s page.

Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA)
B1 – R3, Vincom Mega Mall Royal City
72A Nguyen Trai, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi


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