Locating Vietnamese Contemporary Art: An ethnographic attempt from afar.

1 Initially, as a student majored in Design Cultures, I was intrigued in Vietnam precisely because I barely knew anything about the art history of my country. Having exposed to the studies of Design Cultures and Histories, I set out to find how Vietnamese art history is chronicled by putting it in a complex relationship with the sociocultural and political background. Identifying and locating art from a place like Vietnam that rarely figures in art history cannot be done overnight as I am thousand miles away from the happenings. This essay, thus, is my humble attempt to look at Vietnam’s contemporary art scene through an afar-ethnographic approach mainly by flexible design methods such as interview, survey, case study, discourse analysis and participant observation. Given how little experience in the real-world research and history learning that I possess, my findings are based on personal analysis, perception and hence, do not necessarily reflect other’s views on the same topic.

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Side note:

So this is my last assignment for BA Design Cultures Year One. There is this mixed feeling. I have learnt so much more than words can describe. Not just the knowledge I learnt from lectures or books, but also the experiences I’ve gained during my study process. It is amazing how you can learn from literally everything around. Each object, regardless of how little, casual, ubiquitous it might be, has its own story. I enjoyed all the ventures set out to find out about the context, background, history of things during the course, just as much as when looking for the rawness in everyday talks with people. Learning to contextualize makes you realize how big the world is, and also how easily one can bypass, underestimate the wonder  of little things. As much as I want to move on to Sophomore (as this my second time being Freshman, well positively speaking though), I treasure all the things that I’ve learnt during my First year. I don’t want it to end, but I also understand that when a door closes, another one opens. Sincerest thanks to all my tutors and lecturers. Thank you for all the talks, emails, for always supporting, encouraging, and baring with my ambitiously, sometimes annoyingly demanding curiosity.


Fashion and Freedom to Self-expression

So we’ve started a new unit this semester – Design Research Methods.

A small survey was set out on campus in order to practice one of the new design research methods we have just learnt in class. My group decided to focus on Fashion and look at the freedom of self expression as a design issue to further investigate.  Here are 3 of the questions that we used:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How would you describe your style?
  3. Do you wear the same kind of clothes back home? If you don’t, why?

Since UAL students have different backgrounds and tastes of fashion, we easily identified our subjects. After interviewing a group of students from Brazil, Italy, Australia and England, we managed to collect the information we needed. Most of the international students shared that in London, they felt more comfortable to wear what they liked than back at home.

“I have a few items that I would never wear at home.”

“If I keep my hair dyed like this and come back home, people would think that I am some sort of weirdo.”

In addition, the local students who are Londoners or come from different parts of England, more or less shared the same feeling about how they were being ‘judged’ by the public.

What we learnt from these answers helps us look at our design issue in a much broader perspective. How our surroundings have a certain impact on the way we dress? If we have chosen fashion as a tool to publish our identity, would we change our taste regarding different environments? And does this mean that our sense of self-identity is not necessarily consistent? We are thrilled just thinking about all the possibilities and knowledge that we are about to embrace. So let’s get the reading started!