(Le Ngoc Thanh, Le Duc Hai; born in 1975, Bình Trị Thiên, currently live and work in Hue City. They run Newspace Foundation, where the discussion took place.)
Wang Jiahao: Today I am speaking on behalf of myself from my own experience of the project, which traces back to when I first received the project proposal until now. We have walked almost half of our journey so far. On the first day, all of us marchers have agreed that we will not able to come to a final consensus. The only consensus we have is our questioning of the foundations.
Within these ongoing internal meeting we hold throughout our journey, I have somehow become the moderator of discussions. And we came upon this idea to bring something from our internal meeting into these public discussions. This is why I am here speaking today hoping to take an effective position
May I first introduce my colleagues accordig to my understanding of them:
Gao Shiming: Independent curator. During our internal meetings, we have been continually discussing and critiquing with him his interest in curatorship
Lu Jie: Chief curator of Long March Project. During the prepration for the journey, I had no idea of what the project wanted to do.
Wang Jiahao: An artist. He believes that within his mind he has built an institution.
Xu Zhen: An Artist. He has give up his individual name in the contemporary art scene and now embodies a cultural production company called MadeIn
Liu Wei: An artist. During this journey he have repeatedly declared himself as a theorist
Zhang Hui: My impression is that he believes he can carry on painting within the contemporary art conditions today.
Lu Xinghua: Professor of European Cultural at Tonji University. On one night Lu Xinghua gave us a lesson on the idea of Agamben. In particular I would like to share with you something he told us. According to my own understanding, Agamben responds to the question of ‘what is contemporary’ with the idea of Walter Benjamin, that we should find the light within the darkness of reality and shine this light on tradition. Meaning we should take what we learn from the present to better understand the past.
I myself am Wang Jianwei and I am the only architect in the group. During this journey I have gained a lot of different alternative perspectives on architecture and in a sense have realized and better understood, according to Agamben, some darkness within my own reality.
*The Le Brothers screen their film The Bridge*
Le Duc Hai: We spent 10 years to complete this film. The reason why we make this film. It started 10 years ago, I discussed with my brother together and we thought about the country of our history. The bridge in the film connects between south and north. If the bridge was not rebuilt, we would be considered the north and would not be able to contribute to the art scene as we are doing now. This film is not a ‘film’ but a story told by Le Brothers.
We are thinking about Korea and Germany. We are thinking about going to the neutral zone between north and south korea and do this performance.
Nguyen Nu Huy: I want to go back to Lu Xingua’s quote on Agamben. I woud like to ask him, what is his view of contemporary art?
Lu Xinghua: In the film by Le Brothers we heard a lot of noise, popular and ancient music. It seems to bring us to question of contemporaryness and invites us to feel what is conteporary around us. In the beginning there is imagery that depicts an apparent, black and white past of this country, but film’s developments seems to suggest that the reality is much more complicated than the a textbooks.
Nguyen Nhu Huy: It is my first time watching this movie. Sometimes I feel this kind of film is too local. Does this avoid this kind of too-local artwork from going international?
Lu Xinghua: I think this is an interesting philosophical topic. I think it’s not the problem of being local, being local is not a problem. But if you have an agenda of selling your identity to the international world, that becomes a problem. We should start from being local, but more importantly we should go further and become singular. Instead of international, let us go universal. The film is not local, it is singular and therefore I find it universal.
Lu Xinghua: In the film, the music is playing on the idea of universal. International is a consensus between different identies. Universal cannot be stopped or rejected. Music was a good reflection that the quality of contemporary is unavoidable. What can contemporary art help us bring to this idea of singularity/ When I hear a good piece of music while I watch a film unfamiliar to me, the music helps me cross my own boundaries, to feel the effects of contemporary.
Lu Jie: From my understanding of Lu Xinghua’s speech, this construction of international is being looked as the difference of identity and locality. If the artist’s work tries to sell their identity and locality to the assumed international space, that is not good. He brings up the idea of universal and says it after the development of singularities. Therefore every meaning of local is important. This is a fundamentional problem in contemporary art production system and we have continually been discussing along our journey. We all feel it is important for artists here to follow up on this question, and on the issues of locality, international, and internationale which is universal.
Le Duc Hai: To be contemproary artist we do have to professional training. Me and my brother do not, we learn by ourselves through our friends and through internet. Secondly, everyone has a different concept of contemporary art. This film is not about art but about individuality. We did not dream that this film should go international. It was to be shown to friends and the people of Hue and to be critiqued by them.
With the bridge, the film becomes very local. He Lum bridge divides North and South and is located in Hue.
I have a question: In what aspect should an artist and student keep his individuality. If he has a very strong ego, then he doesn’t learn new things or care about what the world is doing.
Lu Jie: It will be a lifetime process to be aware that true singularity is a struggle which is interrelated with many things. This same goes to our understanding of history. In this sense, there is no difference between student and professor.
Xu Zhen: Is this related to the will of the artist?
Liu Wei: The film reminds me what we have been discussing along the journey. We have heard that now that the north and South
We only want to tell our story you have the right to interpret. If there is no unity between north and south we may be divided as part of North Vietnam and will not become contemporary artists we are today.
I’m not trying to speak into a political discussion here, I am interested in how these political spaces play in relationship to contemporary art, and how it relates to the question of what is contemporary. It points the relationship between universal and singularity as Lu Jie as pointed out. It also points to what we have been discussing a few days ago, and that is the idea of conspiracy of global capitalism.
Nguyen Nhu Huy: I have been involved in this filming of The Bridge. This is a very individual story but as you can see, there is connection with the history of korea and germany. In this sense it is connected to internationalism. Does this film then help build a new circle of universality?
Wang Jianwei: From my understanding, singularity has to do with the body, education, and memory. I doubt that a single person can self clarify their own singularity. To search for this idea of singularity, one must leave his/her own position, their own knoledge and education and go out to a shared space with other people. I doubt the possibility of a clarified singulairty. I would also like to clarify that singularity and personality are different. Personality cannot be shared, singularity can be talked about and shared.
Lu Xinghua: The difference between singularity and universality is that individual was first local and then it develops personality. When s/he finally faces reality and certain truths,
Lu Jie: I do presentaitons and events all the time I understand that translation and time is always a problem. Each event and festival that you have introduced, there is so much more to understand. We are grateful to see one complete film of yours. During our preparation of this project, we could feel that the energy of Hue is very different from Hanoi and Saigon. So far we have not had before so many audience who are so patient listening to our discussion and jargons. I would like to propose that we are all ignorant and would like to learn. I understand that performance has been rather strong medium in Hue, through our communication, I’m sure this is a powerful and positive side. Unfortunately there is limited time today to see more about your festivals and events. But may I ask what is the positive and negative side of what you have experienced working with the performance community here.
Le Duc Hai: We are very lucky to be working in this city. We have the support of the cultural department of Hue. License of any event is not easy in Vietnam. But it is easier for us with official support. Lots of people come to our events, they are interested, they may not understand but they come.
During our studies of art, we wanted to do something new to ourselves, that is why we begun with performance art.
Le Duc Hai: We do things in a very professional way and that is why people trust us. Our events are also educational, The policies in Hue are looser. The artist that you have mentioned, there might have been some issues with his artwork.
Nguyen Nhu Huy: I remember there was a painting exhibition that was censored in Hue.
Le Duc Hai: Events first need to go to the art council, upon approval the cultrual department of the city will then look over it. Both bodies have to be approved. The artist last year whose exhibition was censored, he was approved from the arts council but not by the cultural department. This has to do with institution and policy.
Zhang Hui: To establish this idea of singulairty, there needs to be an overlap between society and indivuals. Within this complexity, do we have the right to speak from a single sided point of view, or from a brutal simplifcation?