The Venice Biennale is where art and nations meet to shout out how they always need, but sometimes dislike, each other. For the first exhibition of Vietnamese artists presented as a group, instead of the usual route of accessing Venice via a national pavilion, they appear to have found an excellent platform the name of which cannot be more fitting – Personal Structures. For Ho Chi Minh City-based Nguyen Trung (b. 1940), Do Hoang Tuong (b. 1960), Nguyen Son (b. 1974); and Hanoi-based Tulip Duong (b. 1959), and Ly Tran Quynh Giang (b. 1978), their works presented are personal forms - as individualistic expressions, and as testimony to their personal trajectories.
The six works of the five artists (Nguyen Trung has two works) thus serve as a ‘Vietnam Pavilion’, but within a zone not of national representation, but of concrete personal structures and moments, and yet not without abundant clues to help audience navigate in-roads into the world of Vietnamese art. If art and nation had to coincide, the Vietnamese group within Personal Structures offers a refreshing perspective.
The Vietnam artist group is lightly national, and the works and contexts quickly point the audience to the diversity within Vietnamese contemporary art practices. The artists have expressed the moment of the works within key turning points of their practices, as in “abstract” for Nguyen Trung, “unsettling” for Do Hoang Tuong, “conceptual” for Nguyen Son, “freedom” for Tulip Duong, but for Ly Tran Quynh Giang, that one word is uttered in silence.
-Kwok Kian Chow