|Room with a view: A photo of Lam Hieu Thuan's photography piece Apartment 727.
by Khanh Chi
HA NOI (VNS) — Vietnamese artists will have the chance to showcase surreal and imaginative works at this year's Singapore Biennial, which will open next Saturday and attract 82 artists and 27 curators from around 13 countries.
Among the contingent is domestic Le Brothers Thanh & Hai, who will be showing their three-colour film Into The Sea in this year's competition.
The art-form film is "a melancholic and poetic reflection of two artists on the modern history of Viet Nam, structured by an endless process of unity and separation, not only in geographical but psychological terms as well," said independent curator and art critic Nguyen Nhu Huy.
Artist Hai said the piece was "a letter of images, which the audience will interpret in their own way. The space within the work presents an unlimited freedom."
"Through this ‘artistic' process, we would like to pose a question for the public regarding the separation and unity – the two most important states of human beings," Hai said. "We are excited that Into the Sea joins such a large playing ground. This is a great opportunity to introduce our work to both regional and international audiences."
"This is also a good opportunity for the world to see Vietnamese contemporary art. The country's contemporary art is developing in leaps and bounds and many Vietnamese artists are revered on the global art scene. They must be highly qualified to join this [Singapore Biennial]."
Artist Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi is also putting the final touches on Specula – an installation of Vietnamese lacquer on epoxy and fibre-glass composite with an iron frame. Central to the creation of Specula is the use of Vietnamese lacquer, a medium which embodies Viet Nam's complex history, a multi-layered creation process and the limitless potential for representation due to its rich materiality.
"Lacquer painting has always been seen as representing Viet Nam's cultural identity," said Huy. "Specula could be considered as her own mirror."
|Le Brothers will show their three-colour film Into The Sea in the Singapore Biennial 2013. — Photo Le Duc Hai
Phi is a Vietnamese – American artist who is now living in Europe. In 2005 she came back to Viet Nam to learn and work with lacquer, using the time to ponder the nation's cultural identity.
Together with the Le Brothers, Phi, and curators Huy and Tran Luong, the other seven Vietnamese artists will present their works at the Biennial from October 26 to February 16 next year. While curator Huy considers the Le Brothers and Phi as highlights of the Biennale, documentary photographer Lam Hieu Thuan is also making waves for his photography work The aesthetics of Disappearing - Apartment 727 Tran Hung Dao, which will be displayed at the event and consists of a series of photos featuring a communal living complex in HCM City.
"This is the first time a work of photography could join the Biennial. I successfully proved to the Biennial's management board that this work is a worthy entry to the event," said curator Huy.
The Singapore Biennial is Singapore's premiere international platform dedicated to helping break new ground in the contemporary art community.
Titled If the World Changed, this year's Biennial is focused on harnessing the energy of Southeast Asia.
"The Singapore Biennial is dedicated to contemporary art's propositions for our changing worlds. With this edition we hope to encourage artists and audiences to respond to their lived experiences and explore what kind of worlds they want to live in," said this year's Singapore Biennial Curator and Project Director, Tan Boon Hui.
"Their combined contribution is powerful on this international platform. It is a more exciting and layered picture of current regional art practices."
"We hope to present the artistic creativity and dynamism that is here in Southeast Asia and the rest of Asia; to suggest how contemporary art can inform our understanding of our changing worlds."— VNS