“Spirit of Friendship” is a survey exhibition highlighting the role and contribution of artist friendships in furthering the development of experimental art practice in Vietnam, since 1975. The exhibition will be held at The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, 15 Nguyen U Di, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City from September 29 through November 26.
The event will feature 22 artist-groups from across the country: Gang of Five | Group of 10 | Salon Natasha | Hanoi Triad | Nhà Sàn | a little little blah blah | Wonderful District | Zenei Gang of Five | The Propeller Group | HanoiLink | Sàn Art | OM | New Space Arts Foundation | Hanoi Doclab | Hanoi-Saigon Sculpture Group | Phụ Lục| Chaap Collective | Art Labor | Then Group | XEM | Saola | Chaosdowntown.
Curated by Zoe Butt, Bill Nguyen, and Le Thien Bao, the exhibition seeks to highlight the role and contribution of artist friendships in furthering the development of experimental languages in Vietnam, since 1975.
As an educational display, it gives recognition to how ‘friendship’ continues to further the testing and encouraging of ideas among artists, beyond what was officially understood, taught, or predominantly exhibited in Vietnam at that time, believing their art worthy of more than catering to ideological/formal and touristic (commercial) demand.
Conceived as an, ‘exhibition as introduction’, it provides a general map of activity outlining 22 artist groups, from across Vietnam, focusing primarily on the visual arts, especially artist-groups whose commitment to collaborative work create regular events that subsequently increased awareness of experimental art practice in their broader community.
This endeavor was initiated particularly for the local audiences of The Factory, aware that access to the history of contemporary art in this country is incredibly limited, due to Vietnam’s lack of diversity in cultural infrastructure (does not operate with comparative and interdisciplinary experience and expertise).
Sustaining a shared motivation of ‘mutual’ contribution as a group of friends laboring together is not easy, for when the financial realities and career opportunities of life become all too overwhelming, it is often only friendship that fires the tendrils of collective endurance, and even then it can be fraught with differing levels of commitment and belief. This exhibition visually focuses on the memorable moments of kindling trusting friendships through art.
As an exhibition, ‘Spirit of Friendship’ is divided into four sections. A timeline mapping the establishment of relevant artist groups since 1975, where evidence – such as quoted testimonial and documentary photographs – will reveal the rise of experimental artistic activity across the country; ‘Leaving a Mark: Finding a Way Forward’ shares artwork and archival documentation highlighting four artist groups – Salon Natasha, Nhà Sàn, Group of 10 and San Art – who have significantly shaped the development of experimental artistic thinking in Vietnam.
From the utilization of domestic living rooms, to the re-appropriation of traditional architecture; from public activation of artist studio space to the bar-cum-studio; from the hostel as art host to the occupation of diplomatic zone as site of artistic production – ‘Strategies of Survival’ illustrates how this landscape’s entrepreneurial flair strives to be heard in a context greatly underestimating their role in society; and ‘Artists looking at Artists’, a program of documentary film, shares how artists study the lives of artists before them, as a means of learning, and paying homage to their legacy.
‘Spirit of Friendship’ will be by no means comprehensive of the breadth of such artistic activity across this country, rather it is conceived as the first chapter of an ongoing research and archive program of The Factory (with future dedicated website: www.spiritoffriendship.org) celebrating the Vietnamese artistic community’s resilient ingenuity, which has sought innovative means of building audiences for art.
This exhibition is marked by individual reflection of collective artistic labor and its supportive networks, in turn evidencing how these perspectives are propelled by, and operate in response to: the tension between internal and external social assumptions; between those who remained and those who fled; between honesty and compromise; between ambition and earning a livelihood – these being but a few of the persistent dilemmas that continue to characterize Vietnam’s experimental art scene today.
Tickets: VND35,000 for adults, VND25,000 for students (with appropriate student ID) and free for children under 16 (with appropriate ID).