Exhibition just came to town

Curiosity made its way to Saigon, attracting people to a smashing exhibition in Thien Son Plaza, district 7. “This kind of art is very popular in the West, but it’s totally new to the Vietnamese audience.” Such is an easy, and yet effective, way to introduce something “modern” in this country. People, young and old alike, enjoyed the exhibition, so much so that going to the plaza was temporarily not seen as a cult of consumerism, but an act of art lovers.

Although the pictures brought to us were based on “Trompe-l’œil” (Frech for “deceive the eye”), an art technique in which artists depict objects on a flat surface and they’ll appear in three dimensions. Perhaps “Trompe-l’œil” is too difficult for Vietnamese people and “Trick the eye” is too long a phrase, so the organizers named the exhibition Trick eye Art. 

 

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Hardly did anyone take photos of the so-called paintings themselves. Instead, we focused on our own image. “I must be included in the photos” appeared to be a rule – never written and yet agreed upon by all the art enthusiasts. To many of us, the origins of the paintings were irrelevant. And even when we could spot one or two pieces originally painted by famous artists and later recreated by someone behind the scenes, we didn’t bother to criticize the distortion. Edvard Munch. Leonardo da Vinci. Who cares?

 

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Thinking about the artists’ intended meanings was a waste of time, firstly because we’re all busy modern human beings and secondly because, in many cases, no meaning was intended at all. The familiar rules. The mundane rocks. What were you thinking when you painted a picture of a pizza, artist?

 

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What emerged, however, was lots of creativity. Different viewers had different interpretations of the same paintings, as seen through how they posed for photos. “The author is dead” – you can say. In modern societies, only the author had the exact meaning of his artwork, although people may have understood it in a variety of ways. Under the postmodern condition, viewers can not only give meanings to paintings in whatever fashion they like, but also express them as they please.

 

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All in all, the viewers’ involvement was encouraged, utilized and maximized. It felt as if the traditional idea on beauty, i.e. loving an art piece because of its aesthetic qualities and the emotional/phenomenal reaction to the world that it creates, had gone forever, being replaced by utility, i.e. the fun that we had when making a silly pose, the photos that we could bring home, etc. Not all of the tickets were sold, but it definitely sold much better than any typical, free and open-to-all art exhibitions by Galerie Quynh, ZeroStation or San Art, because the best they can do with them is to take photos of the exhibits and engage in a conversation with the artists, whereas Trick eye Art gave you the enormous freedom to create new meanings, express yourself, and worry nothing about the artists, their contexts or their message to mankind.

 

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Trick eye already came to town, while Santa Claus is yet to be seen. When he comes, let him know that we need another exciting thing – more fun, more popular, more Western and – again – totally new to the Vietnamese audience.

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