Artist wants to create traditions, not just develop them

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Artist Nguyễn Thế Sơn, curator of Unleashing Creativity Week. Photo nhandan.vn

‘Unleashing Creativity Week 2021’ was held from December 24 to 31 at the Centre for Art & Culture at 22 Hàng Buồm Street, Hà Nội. It included exhibitions, art performances, performance installations and other activities. Artist Nguyễn Thế Sơn, the event curator spoke with Nhân Dân Cuối Tuần (People’s Weekend) about the event.

Why was 22 Hàng Buồm Street chosen as the location?

Hàng Buồm Street is a street lying next to a river. It is known for selling equipment and accessories for boats.

A street resembles an ever-flowing river, where generations come and go. In that endless passage of time, each street is filled with joy and sorrow.

Today, selling sails only exist as a distant memory, just like the countless changes and people who came and went. Number 22 in Hàng Buồm Street is like a water vortex sweeping in up and down in the street’s history.

There exist stories of people from the old days and of today, from Europe and Asia, of the ancient capital people, of the Chinese-born, and of Hanoians today.

I continue to tell a story that I have told for a long time at this historical space. There is a connection between this space and things that I want to tell.

What are the stories about?

Of course there are stories of creation, inspired by indigenous traditions and culture, creating from tradition and reinventing tradition. It is also a continuation of the project ‘From Tradition to Tradition’ I did last year with my students.

That project aimed to bring young people and the community closer to the folk art and values of cultural heritages which are in danger of falling into oblivion.

This time, we focus on art practice of different groups in music, fashion, art performance and others.

The practices are carried out by artists, designers and architects based on inspiration of traditional cultural values and rich indigenous culture of Việt Nam.

Which exhibition is the highlight of the week and why?

A display called Memory of 22 Hàng Buồm is installed with objects which are collected from the house restoration. It is presented by a group of veterans including fine arts researcher Trần Hậu Yên Thế, artist Vũ Xuân Đông, architect Nguyễn Hoàng Phương and I. We directly worked on the restoration of the house.

Stepping into the exhibition space, visitors can witness the wonder of time and its layers. The artists have been collecting and connecting fragments of history, to let them illuminate with a beauty that seems spontaneous yet full of meaning, simple yet incredibly profound.

Two other displays Hà Nội là … (Hà Nội is …) and Ký Hoạ Phố Cổ Hà Nội (Sketches of Hà Nội Old Quarter) are set up outdoor. Hà Nội is … introduces work by young people from the whole country with digital graphics. Sketches of Hà Nội Old Quarter shows love for Hà Nội’s architecture heritage and culture of the members from Urban Sketches Hanoi group.

How did you gather the artists and connect different genres of art into one such space?

I have 20 years of wandering around the world and every nook and cranny in Việt Nam to study contemporary art. My vision is not limited to popular visual art, painting or photography.

I want to convey a message that the tradition is not something that is available. It always flows and moves and that is why it exists. I think that it should not preserve the tradition only.

Take for an example, đàn đó (a set of instruments made of mainly bamboo and soil) is not a traditional instrument. It is made new sounds from familiar indigenous materials such as bamboo and soil.

I want people to get to know about creativity and development. Creativity and tradition should be connected. Creativity of the artists who are selected to participate at the event is not easy to see but it is an underlining flow.

Is this a way to setting up a creativity space for Hà Nội?

We talk a lot about creative city and community projects as well. Obviously, we need to connect creative spaces.

This event shows that the young artists are smart. They have good background on culture, painting, architecture, music, etc.

The last performance of the week consists of a three-channel video installation and sound recordings. It includes a trio performance of violin, viola and piano and the works of two contemporary artists Triệu Minh Hải and Ngô Thu Hương.

All reflect the spiritual aspects of Đạo Mẫu (the worship of Mother Goddesses) in Việt Nam. It is a fascinating narrative and an integrated method of story-telling.

The creativities at the week are attractive and interesting showing that the tradition is something that we can make. And only people can create culture and tradition. We have to respect the creativity and the creators. Just like that we have culture and tradition. – VNS

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