Visitors at Dinh Q. Le's installation: a wooden house with drawings hung on its walls and a video being screened
Renowned Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q. Le (Le Quang Dinh) is presenting an installation made up of Viet Cong artwork at the world famous 13th dOCUMENTA in Kassel, Germany from June 6 to September 16.
The only participant from Vietnam during the 65-year-old history of the contemporary art exhibition has brought to the show watercolors and ink drawings made by Vietcong artists from North and South Vietnam during Vietnam War. Dinh has been collecting the work since 2004.
The Vietcong artists are Vu Giang Huong, Quang Tho, Huynh Phuong Dong, Nguyen Thu, Truong Hieu, Phan Oanh, Nguyen Toan Thi, Duong Anh, Minh Phuong, Kim Tien, Quach Phong, and Nguyen Thanh Chau Le.
The collection was selected by this year’s dOCUMENTA’s Artistic Director and curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who travelled around the world, including Vietnam, over the last five years to select artists as well artworks for this year’s exhibition, themed “100 days, 100 notes, 100 thoughts.”
Dinh, who was born in 1968 and left his country for the US at the age of 10, and then resettled in Vietnam in 1997, said that among the artists, some are still alive, and some have passed away.
In an interview with the curator, the artist describes the historical and autobiographical correlations of his intense passion for collecting these drawings.
According to promotional material, the drawings that make up his collection have a melancholic mood. They depict people in idealized landscapes, as if they were looking for normality and natural life in the years of war. These very personal sketches and their “politics of form” suggest another reality against “official” propaganda images; they reveal a collective condition of waiting, a uniting hope.
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“The drawings have no sight of blood or corpses, or terrible things seen in war drawings of other countries. Why?" Dinh, who received the Prince Claus Award in 2010, told Tuoi Tre Newspaper this week.
"I looked for the artists to ask them as well as to find the answer for my question: 'If I had been them at that time, would I have done the same thing?'”
It took Dinh one year to prepare and set up the installation - a wooden house installed in Karlsaue Park, one of eight venues of the exhibition.
Anh sang va niem tin: Tieng noi va ky hoa cuoc song tu chien tranh Vietnam (Light and Faith: Voice and Drawings of Life from the Vietnam War), includes portraits hung on the walls, a 35-minute video clip revealing the stories of the Vietcong artists .
“I hope the artworks could give the audience a feeling as if they are being told by the artists about their fighting and drawing days in forests, said Dinh, “They are different people, from a young liaison woman to a soldier of different facial features and postures, yet there’s no sight of hatred on their face, but gentleness and determination.”
One of the soldiers said in the video clip that, “The reality is too dolorous, terrible and hard to bear, we want to look for more positive, hopeful things, and how could we have fought if we ourselves were pessimistic?”
“It is hard to tell the position of Vietnam contemporary art in the world," said Dinh.
“We, however, have a brave generation, who will take the lead, and are curious, self-learning, and diligent despite several difficulties in approaching knowledge, techniques, and information in the field.”
Dinh now lives in Ho Chi Minh City. He has had solo exhibitions at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney (2011), and MoMA, New York (2010). His recent group exhibitions have included the National Museum of Art, Osaka (2011), the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2008), the Asian Art Biennial (2012), and the Fukuoka Triennale (2009).
According to press release on the event's website, dOCUMENTA, held every five years, is physically and conceptually sited at four locations—Kassel, Kabul, Alexandria/Cairo, and Banff.
An extensive program of lectures, seminars, congresses, films, and poetry readings, as well as a writers’ residency and programs initiated by the participants, are being presented.