TAASA Review Issues

December 2023

Vol: 32 Issue: 4
Vietnam
Guest Editor: Mai Nguyen-Long

Cover Image
Fissio 2021 (Installation View), Phi Phi Oanh, United States/Vietnam b.1979. Lacquer on wood. Purchased 2021 with funds from Tim Fairfax AC through the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art Foundation. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. Photo: Natasha Harth.

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Editorial

Welcome to TAASA Review’s 2023 Vietnam issue. I’m so grateful to Josefa Green, Judith Snodgrass, and the TAASA team for mentoring me through my initiation as guest editor for this special issue. This is the second Vietnam focused issue. The first was guest edited by Kerry Nguyen-Long, my mother, in 2002. This year is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Australia, and I hope this publication encourages more interest in Vietnam and relationship-building endeavours. There are so many research perspectives with valuable stories waiting to be shared. I trust you will find the contents of this issue as enriching as I have.

Abigail Bernal opens this issue with a virtuosic summary of the representation of artists from Vietnam in the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) at QAGOMA. She explains how adaptive curatorial strategies and sensitivity to balanced representation at the APT have informed an evolving curatorial approach. Since 1991 more than 25 artists from Vietnam have been featured, including two Australia-based diasporic Vietnamese artists. Bernal concludes with a summary of the artists’ diverse themes throughout 10 APT iterations.

John Michael Swinbank steps back to a period when art training at the French École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine (EBAI) in Hanoi had become overtly intertwined with resistance against the French. Following the closing of EBAI, art classes known as the Resistance Class (1950-1954) were relocated to the remote north where a remarkable group of artists were led by the visionary To Ngoc Van. In this context, plein air painting was a weapon, the portability of the medium suited to the artists’ ambulatory existence. 

Kerry Nguyen-Long explores the arrival of Buddhism in Vietnam at the beginning of the Common Era by way of Indian monks; by the 6th century Buddhists were also arriving from China. We learn Buddhism experienced a fluid relationship with pre-existing animism – an iconic example is in Dau Pagoda. Key statues are introduced while the writer ponders an unexplained lacuna of Buddhist statuary across the first millennium CE. 

Tran Hau Yen The introduces the nghe, sacred mythical animal of Vietnam, and his consideration of it as more gentle than fierce. Analysis of the nghe is a complex task complicated by the fact that at times it is confused with a lion. Representations of the nghe, influenced by the subjectivity of artisans, reached a peak in village arts, while in imperial settings forms were under close directive of more orthodox rules. 

Dao Mai Trang’s article on artist Luu Cong Nhan (1929-2017) brings an intimate account of the Resistance Class experience. Notwithstanding his role in the propaganda movement, Nhan, a celebrated artist, developed and maintained a strong personal aesthetic. Accessing letters and personal documents Trang explains this. Until his death, Nhan, a prolific painter of nudes, tirelessly pursued a passion for expressing his wonder of reality.

My Linh introduces Hanoi Museum, realised through an award-winning design by German firm von Gerkan, Marg and Partners International GmbH. The museum was inaugurated in 2010 as part of the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi. Linh introduces artefacts from the museum collection, comprised of 70,000 objects and documents, many of which, including the Thanh Mai Bell, are designated National Treasures. 

Ann Proctor writes about the Cham temple of Po Klaung Garai, located in Vietnam’s southernmost section of former Cham land, one of the remaining temple sites of its genre and a place of continuing worship. Evidence dates Po Klaung Garai to the reign of Jaya Simhavarman II (r. 1287-1387). Although some sandstone sculptures have been removed, a dancing Shiva remains as one of its striking features.

Bringing us to the digital era, RMIT University Hanoi Campus scholars Emma Duester, Michal Teague and Ondris Pui share with us the complex processes of their 2021-2023 project, collaborating with selected museums to establish a framework for the digitization of their collections. They discuss a sampling of artefacts, various software, and the challenges of coordinating necessary infrastructure to ensure future success of this worthy mission.

Linda Luke takes us to the University of Wollongong and it’s almost 20 years of friendship with the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema which in 2020 was further formalized by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions. 

Harry Aveling reviews Kerry Nguyen-Long’s 2023 The Gioi publication Vietnam Visual Arts in History Religion & Culture, noting this is a rich book introducing extensive artforms, exploring techniques and broad ideological concepts. In the final editing stages of this issue of the TAASA Review, word came this book received a National Award for External Information 2023 from the Government of Vietnam. 

Table of contents

3  EDITORIAL: VIETNAM – Mai Nguyen-Long, Guest Editor 

 VIETNAM IN THE ASIA PACIFIC TRIENNIAL – Abigail Bernal 

7  GIRL WITH LOTUS AND M-16: ART AND POLITICS, RUPTURE AND CONTINUITY IN TRANSITIONAL VIETNAM – John Michael Swinbank 

10  SEEKING BUDDHA IN VIETNAM – Kerry Nguyen-Long 

13  SACRED MYTHICAL NGHE: MORE GENTLE DOG THAN FIERCE LION – Tran Hau Yen The 

16  ARTIST PROFILE: LUU CONG NHAN – Dao Mai Trang 

18  HANOI MUSEUM: CONSERVING AND PROMOTING CULTURAL HERITAGE – My Linh 

20 THE CHAM TEMPLE OF PO KLAUNG GARAI – Ann Proctor 

22  SHARING VIETNAMESE CULTURE WITH THE WORLD: CO-DESIGNING SUSTAINABLE DIGITISATION PROCESSES WITH MUSEUMS IN HANOI – Emma Duester, Michal Teague and Ondris Pui 

25  UNIVERSITY OF WOLLONGONG AND HANOI ACADEMY OF THEATRE AND CINEMA – Linda Luke 

26  BOOK REVIEW: VIETNAM VISUAL ARTS – Harry Aveling 

27  RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES 

29  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: DECEMBER 2023 – FEBRUARY 2024 

30  WHAT’S ON: DECEMBER 2023 – FEBRUARY 2024

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