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A river runs through it

Update: April, 16/2012 - 09:57
by Le Binh

 

Floating by: The Sights Viewed from Boats by Myanmar artist Aung Ko. — VNS Photo Truong Van Vi

 

Flotsam: An installation by Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai featuring wooden boxes with sandals and other objects left by floods is on display at the Goethe Institute. — Photo courtesy Goethe Institute

HA NOI — A new art installation at the Goethe Institute by Hue-based artist Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai is entitled The Vestiges and features about 60 wooden boxes with sandals and other objects found along the Huong River, recalling the dramatic floods in central region in 1999.

Mai collected sandals carried away by the floods to tell the story of people's suffering.

"In my work, a pair of tattered, torn and worn out sandals bears the mark of time," she said. "In us they evoke memories and feelings of loss and pain, the feeling of drowning."

Mai's installation is one of 17 artworks created by artists from around Southeast Asia for the art project Riverscapes IN FLUX. The project, conceptualised and organised by the Goethe Institute, seeks to create a discourse on environmental issues.

Southeast Asia is characterised by its major river systems, including the Red River, Mekong, Irrawaddy and Chaopraya, and their riverscapes reflect the lives and forces which have developed into economic zones and vital ecosystems, said Goethe Institute director Almuth Meyer-Zollitsch.

However, the river systems have suffered long-term damage due to economic exploitation of the rivers and the consequences of dynamic socio-economic development, said Meyer-Zollitsch.

Under the project, 17 artists from Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cambodia and Viet Nam have been invited to take part in reflecting in their work on the ecological, economic and cultural changes that rivers in these countries have experienced.

Their works include multimedia installations and photo series, all of which are on display at the Goethe Institute and the Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts.

An installation by Myanmar artist Aung Ko entitled The Sights Viewed from Boats consists of three full-sized boats made from cloth, along with several wooden toy boats. Ko returned to his native village and asked the villagers to create the boats with him, said his curator Iola Lenzi. The toy boats were offered by children in the village, which is located on its bank of the Irrawaddy. The boats move forward silently but have strong functional presence on the river, said Ko.

From the Philippines, artist Jon Romeo submitted an installation entitled Sound Bridge. It includes a model of a bridge across a waterway which produces interactive sounds when used and touched. The sounds attract the curiosity of people to experience it or just know how it works, explained installation curator Claro Ramitez.

Other works include photos and reliefs by Vietnamese artist Nguyen The Son, a multimedia installation by Thai artist Anothai Nitibon, photos by Cambodia's Lim Sokchanlina, and video installation by Indonesian artist Mahardika Yudha. Each make a contribution to raising awareness about the ecological and cultural heritage represented by river landscapes in Southeast Asia.

Riverscapes IN FLUX continues in Ha Noi until April 29 and then moves to HCM City's Cactus Contemporary Art Gallery from May 12-26. It will then tour the cities of Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Jakarta and Manila, accompanied by film screenings and various educational and cultural activities.

The Goethe Institute in Ha Noi will also host A Green Art Weekend on April 21-22, an event for younger art loves sponsored by the non-governmental organisation Live and Learn International. The weekend will include a "Science Slam" contest, as well as talks and film screenings on the topic of climate change. — VNS

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