Art exhibition offers new perspectives on time and history

September 12, 2020 - 09:00

An exhibition at Hà Nội’s Manzi Art Space is offering visitors new perspectives on time and history through the artworks on display.


A visitor looks at embroidered paintings by Võ Trân Châu, while raw  jute balls can be seen scattered on the floor of the Manzi Art Space. The balls are an installation by Phan Thảo Nguyên. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

HÀ NỘI — An exhibition at Hà Nội’s Manzi Art Space is offering visitors new perspectives on time and history through the artworks on display.

The exhibition, Extended Realities, is showcasing works in different mediums by contemporary Vietnamese artists Nguyễn Huy An, Phan Thảo Nguyên, Nguyễn Trinh Thi, Trương Công Tùng and Võ Trân Châu. Through their creations, the artists are showing how they are working with the ideas of time, memory and history.  

A sheaf of paper placed on top of a small white stand is a minimalist installation by the Hà Nội-based artist An, who is considered one of the most dynamic and innovative artists of his generation.  

Entitled Exercise No 2, the creation is part of his ongoing project inspired by the undeniable significance of Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin as a political figure in the history of the country, and of Hà Nội in particular.

Written in the form of a math exercise requesting people to determine the shadow area of a public sculpture of Lenin in Hà Nội at different times of the day, consolidated into a mathematical equation, the work gives the viewers an opportunity to reflect on the way our logic, ideals and world views have always been constrained and impacted by natural forces beyond our control.

''Exercise No 2'' by Nguyễn Huy An. — Photo courtesy of Nhung Nguyễn

By pixelating the photographs of architectural structures or historical figures that have completely or partially disappeared from public memory and then reconstructing them with secondhand clothing or threads and fabric, the latest series of mosaic and embroidery paintings by the HCM City-based artist Châu are a way of recreating collective memories, as she observes and more deeply explores multiple angles of history.

The Portraits No 8, 9, 10 are three mosaic embroidered portraits of Vietnamese kings Hàm Nghi, Thành Thái and Duy Tân – three kings of the Nguyễn Dynasty who all were dethroned by the French and exiled to Africa.

Using secondhand clothing and a cabinet door, Somewhere Near Here 1 reconstructs the image of Thủ Đức Market and Thủ Đức Communal House which no longer exist, while Somewhere Near Here 2 reveals the long gone Chợ Lớn Post Office.

Nguyên is exhibiting Hunger Threadan ephemeral installation consisting of hundreds of raw jute balls that are scattered throughout the exhibition space. Those jute balls can be blown away by the wind or kicked or stepped on by viewers. Hunger Thread is part of her continuing multimedia project entitled Mute Grain.

Mute Grain is Nguyên’s personal interpretation of the 1945 famine in Việt Nam, during the Japanese occupation of Indochina. However, with a new perspective on history and narration, and an artistic medium, Mute Grain proposes a more nuanced approach to personal and historical tragedies. The artist said she hoped to present the crop failure and famine in the most compassionate and objective way possible, combining sorrow with optimism to celebrate the ephemeral beauty of plant, animal and human lives.

In contrast with Nguyên, her husband Tùng has considered time as a medium for his series of paintings The Time of Passing Shadows (1 2 3 4...).  In this series, using pencil and digital prints on Mylar film, light, darkness and dust, he sets out a layered narrative of time that is coherent yet tacitly perplexing, with images and information interleaved with fact and fiction.

The Hà Nội-based artist Thi presents Eleven Men – a video composed of scenes from a range of Vietnamese classic films featuring actress Như Quỳnh. Spanning three decades of her legendary acting career, most of the appropriated movies, from 1966 to 2000, were produced by the Việt Nam Feature Film Studio.

The film’s text was adapted from the short story Eleven Sons by Franz Kafka, which begins with a father’s declaration: ‘I have eleven sons’, then describes each one of them in acute and ironic detail. Transposing the father’s voice of Kafka’s story, the film begins with a woman stating: ‘I have eleven men’.

Extended Realities, which has been organised in collaboration with the Goethe Institute in Hà Nội, is open from Tuesday to Sunday until September 25. Manzi Art Space is at 2 Hàng Bún Alley. — VNS