|Model citizens: A doll exhibition by artist Hang Tran at the show. — VNS Photos TruongVi
|Vehicle for change: The installation expresses a love to peaceful life and the beauty it produces.
|Boxed in: A design created by Japanese architect Tsuneo Noda.
|Grass roots reading: The library diplays an exhibition by Tuan Mami, while under the floor, rice seeds pressed down by glass grow without water or soil.
Inspired by Tran Dan's famous poem, 27-year-old artist Nguyen Phuong Linh is the wind beneath new art exhibition "Skylines With Flying People," which invites leading artists to challenge the norm and seek new meanings from modern life. Cam Giang
"Christmas and New Year are coming, and we are all looking for a new experience, a new space to contemplate our lives," said Hoang PhuongMai, a visitor to the exhibition Skylines with Flying People at the Japan Foundation.
Mai's remark accurately sums up the mission of Skylines with Flying People, a multiplex art project curated by Nguyen Phuong Linh. Inspired by Tran Dan's famous poem "I cried for the skylines without flying people/I then cried for the flying people without skylines", the 27-year-old artist envisioned an open space where artists could "fly" high together with their viewers.
"It took me one year to make it all come true," says Linh.
The experimental project involves 12 performing artists and 11 guest speakers from Viet Nam, Japan, South Korea, Germany and the US who will spend three weeks in the Japan Foundation to communicate with each other and with viewers and realize their artwork.
Nguyen Quoc Thanh is one of 12 artists taking part in the project. In "Sewing Factory", a studio with sewing equipment, Thanh is creating a series of uniforms to be used for different functions and contexts.
"Would you mind telling me what is the message here?" asked one of the young visitors, pointing at a shirt made from Thanh's father's old military uniform and sleeves made of cloth taken from his different boxers.
"What do you think the message is?" Thanh replies.
"I think it's all about heritage, about what a father gives back to his son."
Thanh nods. "I haven't thought about that before," he says. "You've given it a meaningful message."
Next to Thanh's space is "Family Kitchen", run by Nguyen Hong Ngoc, who cooks every day and serves her culinary output to visitors.
For about VND10,000, visitors can order a "Mix Love" dish and wait to see what the artist will produce.
"What separate Skylines With Flying People from other such exhibits is the way the participating artists, who represent a multitude of artistic forms, communicate with each other - and with their viewers," says Nguyen Tuong Linh, an art consultant from Viet Nam University of Fine Arts. "Everything takes place in an open space."
Next to Thanh's "Family Kitchen" is "Measuring the World" by Nguyen Huy An, Yuichiro Tamura and Kupei Miyata.
Although their creations rely on different media, they have one underlying theme: Measuring and Grasping the World.
Nguyen Huy An mimics Ha Noi's tallest skyscraper with pieces of paper and folds the pieces of paper into simple shapes, while Tamura has created a video using images from Google Street View. These works provoke viewers to re-think about the scale of the world around us.
The library displays an exhibition by Tuan Mami. Covering the floor with 100kg of rice seeds and a thick sheet of glass, Tuan creates a utopian space within a normal library. This large-scale installation is part of his on-going project "Untouched Paradise", which invites visitors to approach paradise but tantalizes them by placing it physically out of reach.
Pressed down by the glass, the rice seeds grow even without water and soil. The viewer experiences the freedom of the rice plants that grow in such difficult conditions, as well as the desire to do the impossible and touch the plants.
By planting a rice field in a library, Tuan Mami also prompts viewers to get introspective. Aren't we always looking forward to a better future but regretting our past at the same time?
The open studio design created by Japanese architect Tsuneo Noda enhances the exhibition space.
"I had only ten days to turn the whole place into an art space," says Noda. "There were many challenges. For one, we could not find any carpenters who would make the wooden pallets from the beginning to the end."
However, Noda managed to use 100 wooden pallets to cover an area of hundreds of square metres, turning the empty space into an arena for artists to showcase their work.
"This is where the artists talk," Noda said, showing me a meeting room where artists could be seen sitting comfortably on high wooden benches made from renovated sink counters. Run by Tuan Mami and Hiroyuki Hattori, the room aims to create an experimental space for contemporary art. Artist talks, dialogues and presentations take place there, and the room is also home to various archival materials.
Walking on the wooden floors is refreshing. The viewer feels like one lost in a new world, surrounded by exhibition after exhibition.
"I'm not familiar with contemporary art," Mai, the visitor, says. "But after I saw this space, and I met the artists and talked with them about their work, I felt it was a new and interesting experience that I want to have again and again."
The participating artists will stay until December 22, and their final products will be exhibited until Sunday, January 6. — VNS