Strategies from Within

Vietnamese and Cambodian Contemporary Art. 15 artists and groups, Ke Center, Shanghai. Curated by Biljana Ciric.
Aug 2008

"For me there can be no art revolution that is separate from a science revolution, a political revolution, and education revolution, a drug revolution, a sex revolution or a personal revolution…I will not call myself art worker but art dreamer and I will participate only in a total revolution simultaneously personal and public." - From Lee Lozano’s 1969 statement for Open Hearings, Art Workers' Coalition, New York. [1]

Lozano declares the necessity of a personal revolution as a main point of departure for change. This essay, and Lozano’s radical statements, intersects with the aims of the exhibition Strategies from Within as it attempts to present the different practices of its participants as art dreamers, as much more than workers. The concept of Art Dreamers offers a more radical viewpoint of art making that is not necessarily reliant on the commercial world economy, which today seems almost impossible. Art Dreamers are those who work towards a revolution of the self, whose practices and strategies engage utopian ideals towards total revolution.

Strategies from Within shares this vision of the importance of personal revolutions and change. The exhibition is the result of research conducted in Saigon, Phnom Penh and Hanoi. The undertaken research attempts to allow for a wider reflection of the contemporary culture in both Vietnam and Cambodia through the presented bodies of work.

This exhibition strategically presents artists from different generations in order to show the shifts in the range of issues that they encounter and deal with, and the presentation methods of their works. The project also involves a variety of themes that the different individuals present as crucial to their practice, revealing a broader perception of the societies in which they inhabit through their artworks.

The foundational curatorial concept of the exhibition is to present key figures in their local contexts; to present many established, up and coming artists in the most complete way possible, representing their overall artistic oeuvre; and to present works of art that will provide the audience better insight into the issues that the artists themselves try to raise. Despite the use of the group exhibition framework, the show attempts to emphasize the individual presence of each artist in the strongest way possible, presenting works from different periods, thereby combining the presentation of different bodies of work within the larger exhibition to create a model that is somewhere in-between the solo exhibition and group exhibition format. At the same time, the project tries to push the possibilities of the artists towards more active participation within group exhibitions in general.

Vietnam and Cambodia are currently in a process of building their own intellectual critical discourses, which today remains underground, alluding to the issues of both nations’ political and economic development. The work that has been done by certain of these individuals and the small number of institutions in recent years past spans a spectrum much broader than the visual arts. This work has also provided and built new cultural, educational, and discussion platforms that fill the voids left behind by many turbulent years of war and upheaval. Simultaneously, these intellectuals and artists are building a critical discourse and practice while also trying to rebuild the cultural milieu of their own societies.

Strategies from Within also includes:

A Reading Room Project, which was inspired by the artists’ practice of establishing libraries and reading rooms in their homes, and in the galleries of Saigon, as a result of the lack of art related publications available. For the exhibition we asked artists to borrow the books that they think are of great significance to the local scene to be introduced throughout the course of the exhibition.

The Alternative Archive Publication will also collect texts and articles about the local scenes, including critical discourses and other writings, to act as a guide for a better overview of the issues and strategies employed by the professionals working in the field of contemporary art practices.

 

Note:

  1. <line>See: The Art Workers' Coalition (revisited), by Kirsten Forkert. Scanned copy of Lee Lozano's </line><line>handwritten statement, published in The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest.</line>


Curatorial text by Biljana Ciric

Strategies from Within
An Exhibition of Vietnamese and Cambodian Contemporary Art Practices

7 - 24 Sept. 2008

Ke Center
Kai Xuan Road 613-B
China
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Curator:
Biljana Ciric

Artists:
Tiffany Chung
Chan Dany
Hoang Duong Cam
Dinh Q. Lê
Nguyen Manh Hung
Nguyen Trinh Thi
Tuan Andrew Nguyen in collaboration with Wowy
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba
Sopheap Pich
Leang Seckon
Phe Sophon
Richard Streitmatter-Tran
Tran Luong
Truong Tan
Vandy Rattana

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