XEM Exhibition

XEM Exhibition

11 am – 07 pm, 29 Oct – 29 Nov 2023 (closed every Monday and Public Holiday)
The Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 & 2
NAFA Campus 1, 80 Bencoolen St, Singapore

From the organizer:

“…an effort in search of a satisfactory answer to quell my own unrests and disquiet. History is an entity/a character that dwells somewhere in the grey zone between the seen and the shadowy unseen, it is undying and always in motion, and to seize it in the process…demands the audacity to rise above the shallow dualism of either subjectivity or objectivity.”

“The difference is precisely due to the distance between myself and these events. I feel no need to justify or plead for anything, any individual, or to take part in any side or cause in order to have a perspective. Similar to many other young artists, our interpretations of history resist that singular history…. A work of history is a duty and a responsibility; but a responsibility to nothing but ourselves
as artists: a responsibility for our own freedom.”

Trương Minh Quý: A Vietnamese on Mars, excerpts, as interviewed by Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn, with translator Nhân Nguyễn. Antennae, Issue 54, ‘Uncontainable Natures’

Ten years ago, a group of friends got together to forge a space in which they could actively converse about their individual artistic practices. The goal was also in some ways, to converse without actually speaking directly. Those of us who enjoy talking, would find this hard to understand. The gatherings and exchanges of Trúc (Nguyễn Thanh Trủc), Quang Lâm, Phan Quang, Cầm (Hoàng Dương Cầm) and Ưu Đàm (UuDam Tran Nguyen) have yielded a treasure of things, in print, in the digital arena and as archive. XEM in Vietnamese is a verb: ‘see’. The lexicographic context for xem include Vietnamese equivalents in ‘contemplate’, ‘refer’, ‘watch’, ‘reckon’ and even a nouns like ‘seer’ and ‘allusion’. The carousel of meanings around such a simple referent as symbol and as a creation, as far as the 5 friends are concerned, gives us room to reflect. We reflect on seeing, how we see, and who we are when we see. When we watch, when we observe, when we make sense of the things we apprehend inside our visual field.

This exhibition speaks for itself. It classifies Xem-hood as a kind of practice but a pause alike. It tells us our ways of seeing are never without a complex of thought, of poetics, of memories and of critique.

In the context of Southeast Asia, XEM hails from Việt Nam. The density of Vietnam’s visual field extends far beyond the popular cities we hear about such as Hà Nội, Sài Gòn (Ho Chi Minh City), Huế, Đà Lạt and Đà Nẵng for example. For thousands of years, Vietnam made of itself in sea and sky, from mountains and earth. The centuries and decades fueled by war and dissonance, near and far, borders to centre, north and south have today created a Vietnam still on the verge of promise. There is no blame or baggage in Xem-hood. The voices make no claim to speaking for you or themselves. A wide selection of videos, photo images and serial works, gaming sets and multimedia projections, found object installations and even inflatable pachyderms, re-orient the world for us. History is always in motion, as Vietnamese film maker Trương Minh Quý offers. Seizing hold of it for a moment, is like a collision of memories, joys, beliefs, betrayals, desires, rage, regret, dreams and hope. There is empowerment in making. There is meaningfulness in vitality. The qualitative visions of Xem-hood posit Vietnamese pride in the surfaces light has reflected for centuries. The faces of people, the houses in which we live, the trees and plants around us and how the colours of the sky change day by day. Light drenches the transport systems we use, the resources we consume, the things we make, the new ideas we discover. Have you ever suddenly caught an angle of hard sunlight bouncing off a mirror? Its vibrancy is short-lived and you are momentarily blinded.

The poet Mai Văn Phấn recently wrote a masterful and transformative unfurling through poetry and prose, where in his final chapter, Chương IX. KẾT NỐI, these lines read:

“Tâm linh và cơ điện vi mô. Kinh mạch và kiến trúc phần mềm. Những dữ liệu cấu trúc và phi cấu trúc tâm linh, vật chất. Những mặt người, muông thú, cỏ cây được liên thông suốt chiều dài lịch đại và khoảng không đồng đại.
Những vong linh dữ liệu chờ được giải nén, giục giã người đương thời không nên chậm trễ, loay hoay một chỗ.
Các nhân vật hiện trên cửa sổ giao diện trỗi dậy tái sinh, chọn lại những giá trị khác. Con đường khác. Triết thuyết khác. Lối rẽ khác. Thần tượng khác. Mô hình khác. Độc lập khác. Tự do khác. Hạnh phúc khác. Ý chí khác. Cảm xúc khác.”

“Spirituality and micro-circuitry. Pathways of the Ch’i and spiritual software’s architecture. Structured and unstructured data of the material and the immaterial. Faces of humans, fauna, and vegetation are interconnected throughout chronological time and contemporary space.
The souls of data, waiting to be decompressed, urge contemporary people not to hesitate or mess about in one place for too long.
Personalities appear in human interface windows as they rise out of their rebirths, selecting other values this time. Other paths. Other philosophies. Other turns. Other idols. Other models. Other independence. Other freedom. Other happiness. Other feelings.”

Imbibe the visual field of Xem-hood through 10 years of their seeing. Every moment is one of change and flux. You are life at work in pursuit of the many facets of its truth to preserve the soul of your freedom, and the freedom of your soul.


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