Pity body art

August, 2009
For the first time body art was used at a traditional festival in Vietnam, the Lanh Giang temple festival in the northern province of Ha Nam. This event created controversy as some have called the use of body art disrespectful to saints.

Art critic Nguyen Hung, who has suggested organising a body-art festival next month, presents a view about this contemporary art.

As an art critic, what do you think about body art at the Lanh Giang temple festival?

Not too impressive, just like illustrations.

What is body art’s place in the history of art in your conception?

Body art can be simply seen as an art that employs human bodies as the means of expression. It is extremely difficult to track the origin of body art, but as an art trend, body art appeared in the US in the 1960s. It quickly spread everywhere along with movements to liberalise personality like hippy and women’s rights movements.

In many countries in the world, many people were afraid of body art because of the above “things” that accompanied it, which challenged the so-called traditional values. Body art, however, has become very popular today.

                       Art critic Nguyen Hung.


What are the relations between body art and tattoos and body painting? Some say that tattoos and body painting are major forms of body art. Tattoos appeared in Vietnam in ancient times, so body art is not so strange to Vietnamese culture, is it?

Tattoos and body painting appeared a long time ago as custom. The tattoo is close to the water civilisation. Body painting is attached to aboriginal culture. Roughly, they were the ancient people’s disguise arts to adapt themselves to the challenging living environment.

Neither of them have relations to art in the past. They are only seen as art when they are expressed as art by artists.

In Vietnam, many people don’t understand about the origin of body art, installation and performance art.

Is body art too sexy? Do you think that supporting body art is paving the way for bad behaviours in society?

Which aspect of body art is seen as overly sexy? Because the body is revealed? Firstly, showing bodies is not always sexy. There are many examples in art to prove this opinion. To be sexy, in many cases, bodies are not exposed. Briefly, it is dependent on the viewpoint and the way of expression to determine whether body art is sexy or not.

Secondly, is sexy bad? Frankly, sex is a part of life and sex is indispensable. No cultural institution or even religion can eliminate sex, but only control sex.

In Vietnam, body art is popular in the forms of tattoos and painting on bodies. Before it became an art phenomenon, it was a social phenomenon. Supporting body art at this moment is not paving the way for wrong behaviours.

Thirdly, it is easy to see through body-art performances that artists display their unique creativeness. Body art looks even less sexy than swimwear fashion shows or swimwear competitions in beauty contests.

You suggested holding a body-art festival this year. Do you think that it will be a success in this situation?

I hope that the festival will be a big show that can draw a panorama about the conception and practice of body art in Vietnam. I’m sure that once we have an open play ground, the “face” of body art in Vietnam will be different.

Could you tell more about this event?

I only raised the idea and sketched the contents. I have to find an organiser. I want to hold it in Hanoi but some partners proposed Nha Trang. I cannot disclose more details about the programmes, but I can say that it will be very attractive!


Source: VietNamNet/TT&VH

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