Some points about “ South Country, South of Country”, the art collaboration project between ZeroStation, Vietnam, and Outsiders Facctory, Taiwan
Nguyen Nhu Huy
Artistic director of ZeroStation
The project’s concept:
Even though there have been some diplomat exchanging on the surface, a true relation in terms of culture and arts between Vietnam and Taiwan is still far from expectation. This project aims to create a true relationship between Vietnamese and Taiwanese contemporary art. We, the organizers of the project believe that it is through contemporary art practices whose true power is to transcend surface of things to set not only questions on society but on the very condition of human being, as a social and sociable entity, a true bridge in terms of culture will be built for both participating artists and audiences from Vietnam and Taiwan.
Discursive theme of the project is City. What is a city? Is city a social, economic, cultural and political gathering in the shape of a specifically architectural entity? Seen from this view, all cities in the world seem to be in a convergence to an architectural form whose essence is only to enable for an easier and easier goods exchanging in a globalizational time.
However, because of being not only a functional entity day-by-day converting more and more into an identical shape serving only for a commoditized culture, city is where the human beings dwell. It is Human beings, with their different memories, endeavors, and uneven emotions who are dwelling in city and who, by their different memories, their endeavor of trying not to forget their pasts, will transform city into not only a functional entity but a museum of different personal memories, dreams and make city its soul. Because of which, city is not a generic entity(to borrow the Rem Koolhaas’s expression), but a domain for discovering, of secrecy, of privacy, of multiple meaning spaces, and above all, of endless cultural conflictions, which both is and creates reason for the existence of human beings in the world. Seen from this perspective, the project is about city, but not in the surface term of the word city. The project is about the city in imagination, in memory, and in reasoning about city.
What is reality of a city? To us, it is not a converged representational point coming from given identical visual assumptions. Oppositely, it must definitely be the most surprising and different results sometime conflicting one another, which are unconcealed (an athelea) at the moment we engage to the world as a dasein and by which, we not only lighten the world, but very our Being-in-the-world And the target of the project is to create the condition for possibility of such discovery/unconcealed-ness/lightening, not for the object (here is the city) to be discovered/lightened/unconcealed, but the very the subjects who discover/un-conceal/ lighten the object
The structure of the project:
Each in two independent art spaces, ZeroStation, HCMC, Vietnam, and Outsiders Factory, Tainan, Taiwan will select 6 artists who work in different contemporary art fields. These 6 artists will be separated into two groups, 3 visiting artist and 3 host artists
In the course 3 months, from September to November 2012, three visiting artists from Vietnam will come to work in Howl space in Tainan, Taiwan, and in return, three visiting artists from Taiwan will come to work in ZeroStation in HCMC, Vietnam. Each visiting artist from Taiwan and Vietnam will be coupled with one host artist in Vietnam and Taiwan and work collaboratively with each other in one month in order to create a collaborative product, which is made from general discursive theme of the project: the city. There will be 6 collaborative products at the end of the project (three from Taiwan and three from Vietnam), which will be on view in two exhibitions at Taiwan and Vietnam.
The exhibition will be accompanied with a colorful catalogue of collaborative products and texts.
To clarify the term collaboration
In Vietnamese language, the term collaboration has been translated into two different expressions: “Hợp tác”, and “ Cộng tác”. If “Hợp tác” is normally understood as a working-together basing upon a scarification process of both or more partners in order to create a final comfortable and negotiating result for two or more sides, “Cộng tác” is probably understood as a working-together in which both or more partners, in their working-together, still be able to keep their own voices and visions unchanged so that the final result of this working-together will not be reductive, but remains combinative one in which regardless to some negotiating points necessary for any working-together process, the different voices and visions of all participants still be very strong.
This way of translating the term “collaboration” into “Cộng tác” in Vietnamese to me also could be seen in the light of the idea of cultural translation Homi Bhabha once made clear in his interview “The third Space” with Rutherford Jonathan, in “Identity, community, culture, difference”, edited by Rutherford Jonathan, and published by Lawrence and Wishart, London,1990. (p.207-221). In this interview, Homi Bhabha has mentioned to that-so-called the third space. This space, for Homi Bhabha, is an in-between domain that is created from the true conflictions within the incommensurabilities of the cultures. It is in this in-between domain a form of relationship among differences will emerge: the cultural translating. Homi Bhabha understands this form of translating “not in the strict sense of linguistic text translation as in a book translated from French to English but as a motive of trope as Benjamin (Walter) suggest for the activity of displacement within the linguistic signs”.
The translating here for Homi Bhabha, developed from original idea of Benjamin Walter, is “also a way of imitating, but in a mischevious, displacing sense- immitating an original in such a way that the priority of the original is not reinforced but by very fact that it can be simulated, copied, transferred, transformed, made into a simulacrum and so on”
We, the curators of the project, would like to see the term “collaboration” as being understood and translated into Vietnamese into “cộng tác” (not “hợp tác”), and more important, in the light of the idea of cultural translation as roughly summarized above.
So the collaborative project between Taiwanese and Vietnamese artists as proposed here, we hope, will be somehow a sort of condition for the cultural translations might be happened.
Not only each in six collaborative projects built by each in 6 couplings of Vietnamese and Taiwanese artist offers a rich domain for such translations (not only from artists to artists, from artists to new landscapes, but from the very new landscapes to the artists as well), the total 6 collaborative projects will definitely become a great arena where all possible translations can be taken place and by which offer a great deal of different voices and visions that can enrich the audiences not only from both Vietnam and Taiwan, but also anyone from around the world who has a chance to see the exhibition.
South country, South of Country – Become the Viewer of History Again
Director of Outsiders Factory
The core issue of Vietnamese & Taiwanese Artists Exchange Project is about how “the South” become the nature be viewed in the cultural context. In this project, we try to set the stage of creation from artists at the south capitals of Taiwan and Vietnam, Tainan and Ho Chi Minh City, to construct “the South Culture of South Country” and cause the discussion between artists.
In the historical view of Asian context, “the South” occupies an important periphery location. This location is a kind of cultural and economical unbalanced status.
From the Chinese and Japanese invasion to global OEM market, the South is always the hub of resources and manpower. However, from the viewpoint of cultural competition, in the “great narrative” of Asian history (from the sub-heaven-dynasty of China Empire to the exotic colony of Europeanization Japan), the south is always a silence object(s) which wait to be viewed. As the space of this project, Ho Chi Minh City and Tainan present themselves with some kind of exotic views after the disappearance of elegance. They also create a unique viewpoint of cultural geography – “The South of the South Country”.
This kind of specific view for “the South” is the Asian version of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”. In the historical structure of East Asia, the cultural view of Sinocentrism excludes all possibilities of the existence of the “center” outside China. Under this cultural context, Vietnam became “the South Country” (Little China), and Taiwan could only be a savage land (Huawaizhidi). After inherit from the Heaven Empire (China) and the viewpoint of European Colonist, Japan sees the Southeast Asia, include Taiwan and Vietnam, as the rich foundations of future Empire. Japanese overstate the strategic importance and the resource’s quantity of “the South Countries”. However, under the process of overstate, on the other hand, the local culture of Southeast Asia have been disparage seriously. Local culture became the symbol of savage and less-developed. French use the same mode on colonial Vietnam. After World War II, Taiwan and Vietnam, both became the agents of cold war. Taiwan and Vietnam became the far tropical frontier under the views of First and Second World. After the downfall of Cold War’s structure, even Taiwan and Vietnam both take an importance part of global market, the cultures from both countries still locate at a highly periphery corner in the global cultural regime.
Although the economic relationship between Vietnam and Taiwan is close–large Taiwanese money flow into the Vietnam market in recent years. Due to the economic and geographic distance, generate the large numbers of marriages between two peoples. Taiwan’s society forces to inclusive the existence of the fifth ethnic group, New Immigrations. (According to 2006’s data from Ministry of the Interior, Taiwan. There are 104,807 Vietnamese citizens in Taiwan, most of them are labors. At 2006, 10,173 Vietnamese Citizen changed into Taiwanese citizen; occupied 85% of naturalization numbers of that year, most of them are bridges. At 2006, about 3%~5%’s newborns are born by Vietnamese mother. Meanwhile, at 2011, over 60,000 Taiwanese work in Vietnam.
According to the data from Vietnamese government, from 1988 to 2011, 11.65% foreign funds come from Taiwan; Taiwan became the largest investor in Vietnam’s market. Most of investigations from Taiwan locate at South Vietnam.) However, the cultural understanding for each other, are highly rude and insufficient. Traditionally, the structure of Taiwan’s education is based on the history and culture of China with tiny Japanese material. And then the education system skips other areas of Asia, even the geographical neighbors (Philippines, Vietnam and Korea). The system tries hard to get into the Western context
directly. On the development of Taiwanese contemporary art, the permission of enters the Western context became the recognition condition of the art circle. But the destiny of these works must be in vain. Taiwanese lacks the fundamental recognition of western culture, especially on history and religion tradition. Taiwan even lacks the exotic atmosphere as an “Exotic Country”.
In Chinese characters (kanji), “South Country” (南國) include 2 characters, “南” (the South) and “國” (the Country). After the end of the character of “the South” as the exotic colony and the cold-war agent, we force to discuss “the Country”(國). “The Country” here, is not simply the political subject or the imagination of nationalist. Instead, it’s the process of subjectification of local cultural subjects under the post-colonial and post-cold-war structures. But, this process of construction will meet a lot of difficulties, including the confused history and the multiple experiences of viewing. The construction of Taiwanese or Vietnamese art history must through the combats and repeats of others’ views. Through this process, we might have chance to produce a kind of unique contemporary art based on multiple historical view, if we are not get lost in the global culture (the new package of western culture as the commodity culture)at this contemporary movement.
South of the Country
The most interesting part of this project is we try to make the project happens on the periphery cities of periphery countries. Tainan was the capital in the history of Taiwan. Tainan overlaps the traces of Dutch, Chinese immigrants and Japanese colonists. But from the end of Chin Dynasty era to Japanese rule, the political core moved from Tainan to Taipei. Although Tainan accumulates a large amount of historical and cultural resources, it has been marginalized seriously by the modernization of 20th century’s Taiwan. But due to this periphery status, Tainan contains the different viewpoint for action. Tainan and the southern Taiwan continually speak up the different political statements compare to Taipei. The citizen of Tainan involve to the preservation and reusing of heritages voluntarily. Even, amounts of young artists, designers and architects abound the high-cost Taipei. They chose to recreate a new network at Tainan.
On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City is another periphery experience.The development process of Ho Chi Minh City is more like the historical process of Taipei than Tainan. By the intervention of French, the periphery city, Ho Chi Minh City, became the modernization hub of Vietnam (Vo, 2011). This core status continue to 1975, the downfall of South Vietnam. Although Ho Chi Minh City plays an important role of the economic growth recently. The political view or ideology of lifestyle from the south continually disturbs the political core at Hanoi. And this periphery status in politic develop the most important network of contemporary art in Vietnam. Although Tainan and Ho Chi Minh City are on the different periphery status in the history, this periphery status also creates new kind of liberty. This kind of liberty makes the art grow without the affects from market and academy.
We hope this project could create the new core values in the periphery status of periphery location. The confused historical views need the multiple exchanges to clear up.The confused multicultural materials need close exchanges to build up. In this exchange project, young artists will be force to “exchange” their cultural and historical memories. They will be force to search their own experience from the foreign landscape and contexts. We believe this project as an experiment; will be the important process of cultural development of Vietnam, Taiwan, even of all Asia. The 12 artists who join this project are come from the categories ofphotography, video art, architecture, performance, documentary film and painting. We hope this project is not only the cross-culture discussions, but also the cross-media experiment. The artists will be force to face the unfamiliar environment by familiar body, space and image dimensions. This project will produce 6 works at the final as the carriers of cultural exchange and experience construction. We hope these works could enlighten the audience from both countries, and the process of the project could be preserved as the importance landmark of exchange project of contemporary Asian art.
More information about this project: