Thursday, November 8, 2007

Superintense Viet Nam Edition 2 and 3/3

... well, that was different.

The 25-minute format really does allow for much crisper presentations: I'm totally understanding now where Tiffany's coming from with her mixed media installations trying to convey the Technicolor hyperreality of Saigon after a youth in America; from her misfit Smurfette fixation to her photoshoots-cum-fake-reality TV; the thing I’ve realised about Vietnam is you cannot use just one medium to make work, she says, because there’s just so much visual stimulation when you walk out into the street. Ka Fai's presentation was so crisp it left out the show that I collaborated with him in. Grrrr.

To tell the truth, something shifted in the air since I last posted. Came up from an awkward ground floor Q&A to see Marco kneeling on the ground as a miniature Hitler, sprachstimmering the entire score and text of The Wizard of Oz.

Third bloc was even more bizarre: after 10pm, moonshine rules. Trung Loong, the Hanoi performance artist, told a brief story about his love-hate relationship with his red Communist scarf and began to swing it, whip it, snap it in triple permutations; then invited audience members to crack it against his bare flesh to paint his body.

After two very violent young male whippersnappers, I volunteered and used it to tickle and seduce his body in between smacks. S&M always adds the spice of variety.

Then David and Mich came in bargain market kitsch, presenting their work Made in Vietnam: arriving downstairs we discovered they'd paid the carrot cake wagon lady to wheel her stall into the gallery space and provide free food and beer for the audience; also exhibited were Saigon postcards, an audio recording of the duo speaking Vietnamese with the volunteers translating into English and an unheimlichly verdigris statue of a chef hauled in from next door at the foot of the steps. You had to be there: freaky indeed.

And then upstairs, where Francis Ng and his assistant Ping rode children's tricycles in a figure-8 outline of chalk wearing Chinese gigamasks: bilingual projections on memory and a looping instrumental of some 90s popsong with "girl" in the title; after X rotations they paused the vehicles and distributed petrochemical bubble-blowing kits, the kind we used to play with: suddenly rubbery rainbows puffed from short straws all over the gallery; someone planted one on my nose and all of a sudden I became a focal point for bubble deposits: myself as an iridescent Pinocchio/Elephant.

I'm supposed to be a documenter, not an interventionist! And certainly, not an art object.

Finished on time by midnight, buzzing amidst the circus animals over how they can top this tomorrow: Julie asks for papers over the windows because a plainclothes policeman came by earlier this evening (you can tell by the shoes). Went drinking with Francis, Chee Wai, Tih and Trung Loong (I only had a sapodilla juice): TL explains that his roots may be read even on his body, in the kueiwei squareness of his shoulders well-fed in the 60s as starving 70s children never grew: how his intellectual parents wept when they had to send him into the country, cutting short his piano lessons, handing him a paper and a paintbox and letting him splotch. Thank god, he says: because I'm happy to be a visual artist, I'm happy to be doing what I am today. It's only when my 10-year-old son comes home with a red scarf around his neck that I remember the past.

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