video and moving image works
Skylines without Flying People | Nhuững chân trời không có người bay
Contemporary Art from Hanoi, curated by Linh Phuong Nguyen
Rory Gill Fine Art, London
22 June – 5 August, 2011
Nguyen Trinh Thi’s sound and video installation “Unsubtitled” offers a haunting and defiant testament to the power and fragility of Hanoi’s experimental art scene. In the original installation at NhaSan Studio, luminous figures were projected onto life-size wooden cutouts in the dark. These are the digital body-doubles of the individual artists who made up Nha San Studio’s social constellation in the Fall of 2010. The installation bends the dialogue surrounding an intense slew of negative media coverage and a directive by the cultural police to “put on pause” all exhibitions at Nha San Studio. This particular clampdown was in reaction to photos of artist La Thi Dieu Ha performing in the nude. The images circulated like wildfire through the internet, making public evidence of the first instance of a female artist performing naked within the country. “Unsubtitled” opened the studio back up when the period of laying low ran its course.
Thi directed each artist to face the camera, eat an item of food, and then state their name followed by the name of the food they had just consumed. Suggesting a kind of review stand, the pseudo interrogation sessions do not result in self-criticisms. Instead we see and hear a chorus of overlapping statements-of-the-obvious: the basic human act of eating was just committed. Examining the gap between artists and the general public, and questioning long running methods of surveillance and intimidation pervasive in Vietnam, Thi creates an ethereal portrait of this time in Hanoi, and of the flying people who inhabit it.