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Artists mourn communal houses

Update: September, 24/2013 - 09:38
Home sweet home: Vu Dinh Tuan's installation at the exhibition. — VNS Photo Thai Ha

HA NOI (VNS)— It's increasingly hard to find traditional communal houses in the capital, as modern development replaces older buildings. However, a group of artists is fighting to preserve this architectural heritage with an exhibition in downtown Ha Noi.

In Doi Thoai Voi Dinh Lang (Dialogue with Village Communal Houses), the artists mourn the disappearance of communal houses, emphasising the need to protect old buildings and, more broadly, preserve tradition.

Nguyen Ngoc Lam built many small wooden houses surrounding a gold-inlaid communal house. The work, Chen Lan (Jostle), is intended as a comment on how urban development is encroaching on communal houses, temples and pagodas.

Nguyen The Son spent six months wandering throughout the Old Quarter as well as new urban areas to record how private buildings have replaced communal houses.

"This is an open project," he said, "In the captions, I note the address of each communal house and leave a blank so that audiences can fill in what they know about the site."

In Vu Dinh Tuan's Chuyen Cua Dinh (Story of a Communal House), the artist creates an elaborate visual metaphor. A circle of unhusked rice on the floor represents the yard of a communal house, where local farmers dry their rice under the sun. Many strings connect it to a 2.5m-long kite, which looks like the roof of a communal house and is printed with various idioms and folk verses. It represents the world of humans, filled with knowledge and letters, the artist said. Above it hang multi-coloured bands of cloth, which represent the sky.

"I hope my work will show people that communal houses are not only valuable in terms of fine arts, but also in terms of abundant language," he said.

Vu Nhat Tan brought the only audio project, a 60-minute record of the sounds at a communal house.

"We cannot hear echoes of the past with cocks crowing, birds twittering and people praying," he said, "The communal houses are no longer quiet and tranquil. They are as noisy and busy as the bustling street."

Several of the artists, like Le Tran Hau Anh, Pham Duy and Luu Chi Hieu, are teachers at the Viet Nam Fine Arts University. Dang Thi Khue is a researcher at the Viet Nam Fine Arts Institute and Vu Nhat Tan teaches at the Viet Nam National Academy of Music.

Researcher Bui Thi Thanh Mai, curator of the exhibition, hoped each work would awaken a love for heritage among audience members and help protect communal houses.

The exhibition runs at Viet Nam Fine Arts Museum, 42 Yet Kieu Street, till October 4. — VNS


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