Multi-media show adds spin to porcelain heist
by Vo Le Hong
Living history: A group of artists at the multimedia exhibition about a historic shipment of Asian porcelain. — Photo Courtesy of Sunny Rose
HCM CITY — A contemporary art space in HCM City has a multimedia exhibition that challenges the Western version of history about a shipment of Asian porcelain in the 1600s.
The show, Porcelain by Danish artist group Superflex, in collaboration with The Propeller Group, is being featured at San Art exhibition hall.
It is based on a three-part television documentary called Porcelain, filmed in Viet Nam and broadcast on Vietnamese television in March.
The starting point of the exhibition comes from events surrounding a shipment of porcelain from Asia to Europe on December 17, 1601, when the San Jago set sail from Goa, India, bound for Lisbon, Portugal. The cargo included the first consignment of Southeast Asian porcelain destined for the European market.
On March 14, 1602, off the coast of St Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean, the San Jago encountered three Dutch ships and a fierce battle followed. After three days of fighting the Portuguese surrendered and the Dutch took possession of the San Jago.
Artefacts from the San Jago are in the Zeeuws Museum in the Netherlands and the artists were granted the right to use these objects to make a film.
Rasmus Nielsen of Superflex says: "We wanted to recreate Dutch history from a Vietnamese perspective using authentic historical objects and adding a disturbing layer of constructed props to the official memory of the Dutch."
Tuan Andrew Nguyen, of The Propeller Group, says: "Viet Nam is heavily represented in the shared global narrative of film and TV. We like the idea of using the format of a Vietnamese television drama series to be part of recreating the history of a western country."
"What you are seeing before you is an artist's fictional appropriation of the situation. A Danish collective (Superflex) wants to ship a series of art objects to a Vietnamese collective (The Propeller Group) in Viet Nam. When these objects arrive in HCM City, they are not allowed into the country by customs."
Porcelain is sponsored by the Cultural Development and exchange fund and the Danish Art Council. It is on view at San Art, 3 Me Linh Street, Ward 19 in Binh Thanh District until 20 September. — VNS