At his exhibition titled “Negotiation,” Tran Trong Linh displayed seven ice blocks covering 20 cubic meters of garbage from Hanoi’s To Lich River to raise people’s awareness on how the environment has been destroyed through the melting process of the ice blocks.
Under the plan, the event was set to take place at French Cultural Centre L’Espace from April 5 to 27. However, from April 6 to 9 the Hanoi Department of Fine Art, Photography and Exhibition required Linh to stop his exhibtion since his work caused pollution in the area.
The wastewater melted from the ice blocks with trash and went straight to a drain on the street at the venue. Stagnant water around the drain has caused an understandable smell at the area.
According to Duong Thi Thuy, from the center’s Cooperation and Cultural Affairs Department, Linh violated clauses in the approval for his exhibition at the center.
“In the negotiation, L’Espace allowed Linh to create only visual works without any smell, since the venue is often crowded and there are many café in the neighboring area, but he didn’t respect the deal,” she said.
Some spectators said Linh’s intention is good but the way he executed his idea shows that he lacks responsibility towards visitors.
“How can people drink beer or coffee next to such huge piles of garbage, not to mention the fact that children are allowed to enter to the event, where they could be infected from the trash?,” visitor Pham Long he expressed in opposition to the display.
Some people do suppoer the artist though. Pham Trung, a contemporary fine art researcher at Hanoi’s Fine Art Institute, said that the pollution is tolerable since Linh sent an environmental message to the public.
“The wastewater from the exhibition is just a drop in the ocean compared with the recent pollution in our life. It’s certain that we will receive some damage while creating such a meaningful message about the environment,” Tran Luong, curator of the Ho Chi Minh City-based San Art exhibition space said.
For his part, Tran Trong Linh said he does not agree with the idea that his works must be only-visual art.
“I want my works to impress spectators with both the coldness of ice and the unpleasant smell of garbage,” Linh added.