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.


Inside Out Vietnam – Lullaby of the Streets

About one year ago, Inside Out Vietnam team and I started this small action, among with hundreds other from the global art Inside Out Project by JR artist, hoping to bring a flow of fresh air to the Hanoi’s street art scene, but most of all, hoping to drive the compassion within our community towards these underprivileged children. Now the photos are up on the walls, though this shall not be the end of us. WE WILL BE BACK THIS SUMMER!

Thanks for the nice words And Of Other Things 🙂

Can art change the world? Inside Out Vietnam is hoping so

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The portraits currently plastered up on Yên Phụ are different from the ones normally seen in public places – the perfect smiling people used to convince you to buy a particular brand of toothpaste or watch the latest TV series. Instead the images up on the walls on Yên Phụ are of street children, their nameless faces staring out at us, larger than life. They have been put there by Inside Out Vietnam in an attempt to get us to actually think about the plight of the children we see around us in the city.

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“The Feet Project” by Minh Nguyen

Learning the difficulties and imminent dangers that children in Northeast Vietnam have to face on their daily ‘trekking’ journey to school wearing flimsy ‘beehive’ rubber slippers, my friend Minh Nguyen Jr and his team have created a wonderful project called The Feet Project. The Feet Project is set out carrying a mission which is to ‘support students on their quest for education’ by ‘assisting their physical steps to school’.

My dear friends, have you ever once complained about your bus or tube being one or two minutes late? I bet you have, myself included. Knowing that those children have to walk miles on a daily basis in order to access education….Hmm I will just leave alone the moment where we find ourselves sympathetic or may be shrink back (a bit) from shame. Let’s do something more practical instead. Let’s get involved!

The Feet Project’s next ‘care packages’ distribution trip is coming soon still they’re pondering the question of “How can we support this community in a more self-sustainable way?” – which I think, is one of the most vital questions for any non-profit project. Now friends, if you have any thought, idea or suggestion, please reach out and leave TFP a message. What can we do more to help? Anything will be much appreciated. Cheers!

Read the full story here: http://bit.ly/thetrekkingstory

“My little Hanoi” by Maika Elan

Maika Elan (Nguyen Thanh Hai) was born in Vietnam, and lives and works in Hanoi.

After taking a BA in sociology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in 2006, Maika started to use the camera to document her daily and private life.

She soon turned to professional photography, working for editorial clients and fashion firms in Vietnam. In 2010, she took up documentary photography.

Her first project, The Pink Choice, focused on the life of gay couples in Vietnam, and was widely published internationally and online, winning in 2013 a World Press Photo prize and a Pride Photo Award.

“My Little Hanoi” is a photo album uploaded on her personal facebook in 2009, captured the daily life of people who live in the Hanoi Old Quarter areas. Her description for the album says: “Hanoi – joy in this alley, sorrow in this alley, every story here and there, will finally find their way back to this alley”.


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