「旅行 Le Voyage」Culture hunting in Saigon, Vietnam

My one and half month southeast trips NOT YET finished! Hihihi well, this is my first time to visit Saigon, same as Ho Chi Minh City. For most of people know, Saigon was the capital of the French colony of Cochin-china and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam from 1955–75. South Vietnam, as an anti-communist, capitalist republic, fought against the communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, with aid from the United States and countries including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

With the complicated history development which is similar with China Cultural Revolution, we could imagine How hard it is for building a country replaced by capitalism without culture. Before i coming to here, I heard of many negative impression which is confused me again? Will it like Manila? Many crimes happened when you are out of  reminding? The truth is  Lucky for me, when i made new friends in Manila, I told them i was going to do the residency project in Saigon. They were having almost the same period of time with me arriving and staying in Saigon.

Besides doing my research, after my work. I spent much time with those great-kind friends, hunting culture in Saigon!! Saigon is a big city similar with Taipei, there are 5 districts (huyện) and 19 rural areas and precincts (quận) in urban areas. The black dots are the alternative art spaces where i was hunting and accompanying with two projects during the residency.

Saigon Map
Saigon Map

In this period of staying, I had visited nine Quans, as much as i can. In the beginning few days, assistant Ben showed  me around Zero station, then artist Truc and Coung took me to visit the most beautiful French architecture, and famous china town communities around Q.5, Q1, Q3. Which is helping me a lot later when i was riding motocycles  in crazy Saigon.
My residency place is named Zero Station, located in Q.3. Zero Station is a project-based art space which includes studio space, exhibition space, and an art residency program.  The main mission of Zero Station is to create more opportunities for dialoguing, thinking, and working in art-project forms among young artists in HCMC and beyond. The present director is Nguyen Nhu Huy. He is the co-curator in Singapore Biennale 2013.

In the morning, around 8 am, there is early market next to the building. I am automatically waked up by the market sound. Pho is common and pop breakfast for vietnamese. I will show the food later.

Zero Station
Zero Station

Do not think it’s popular activity in Saigon street. In fact, the neighborhood is angry for the smell of spray, some of older is sitting with us, wondering and confusing what are we doing. They dunt know how to ask what is that, of course you can not give them the answer “graffiti art”. They are thinking “you are destroying the wall” And we stop painting because we are reported to “police” and they came for regular check. Luckily, there is nothing happened when the building is belong to private owner.

Dejavu Coffee
Deja vu Coffee

Vol de nuit is a multi-media project curated by Philippines curator. There is strict rules for art group wanna held art events, especially for involving with sensitive political issue. During the time, most of projects, openings i attended is at the night. Rightly response their title of projects.

And the interesting things is, for example this group solarsoundsystem was heading to Taiwan for Spring Scream Festival after Project Vol de nuit, in another words global village is really flat and small.

Vol de Nuit Project
Vol de Nuit Project

My mission is not only keeping following up the southeast asia contemporary art, but also experiencing a new social community systems in my life. As people know, Vietnam is communist country today. By culture as  enlightening thoughts of society is prohibited for government, but it’s important for general Vietnamese nowadays, as i know, artists, scholars, and some of kids  are changing little by little.

After talk
After Saigon talk

The second project i was joined is Carp 2 dragon curated by Italian independent curator Antonio Rosciano. Which is an international artist residency program focuses on art experimentations with new media. The artists came from Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Italy, Calombia, and Frence.

Carp2 Dragon
Carp2 Dragon

Because of this project, I barrow Vespa to follow them. They arranged 8-10 venues around Ho Chi Minh City, so that i had good chance to visit this interesting but beautiful city part by part. Ricky Janitra is from Jakarta “Ruang Rupa”, his video mapping artwork had been invited by Chritie’s. Curator Antonio in order to advance international exchange, the workshop was located in Escuela Jaleo runned for flamenco dance. Escuela Jaleo is to spread Spanish and Latin American culture and bring it closer to Vietnamese people. They organize not only Spanish language lessons but also cultural activities and workshops.

Carp2 Dragon workshop
Carp2 Dragon workshop

RMIT Campus is a global university of technology and design and Australia’s largest tertiary institution. It’s new university and located in Q.7. Italian artist Luca Carruba shared interactive new media function, proposes, technology, aesthetic ideals, and upcoming projects in Mexico.

Carp2 Dragon @ RMIT Campus
Carp2 Dragon @ RMIT Campus
Carp2 Dragon @ RMIT Campus
Carp2 Dragon @ RMIT Campus

Another venue is I’m yours coffee, three artists from Jogja, Jakarta, and Saigon collaborated their own professional technology composing electronic music, video mapping and sound performance into a great night for every audience.

Carp2 Dragon @ RMIT Campus
Carp2 Dragon @ I’m yours coffee

San art is a special and nice art space for me, In the four-floor French-style building, they have library for archive, gallery, and meeting office. People can learn, get approach to art knowledge, and exchange the international information by free and comfortable long staying.

san art
san art
san art
san art
san art
san art

Since last year, 2012, they open a new venue for 6-months residency projects, the selected three artists could stay at san art lab doing workshop, art talk, and being good neighborhood with Vietnamese.

san art lab
san art lab

Then, the most important thing in my everyday in Saigon is eat eat and eat!!

Bánh mì @ zero station
Bánh mì @ zero station

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Pho @ Zero Station
Pho @ Zero Station
Yummy Bánh cuốn
Yummy Bánh cuốn
Famous Bánh mì
Famous Bánh mì

This trip is really fun and i am so luck to make so many friends. Thanks to Huy, Ben, Linh, Antonio, Truc, Coung, Van, Duc, Arlette, and everyone there with me.

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