The artists ‘cooperative’ in downtown Hanoi

Several dozen local artists have gathered at five adjacent shabby, deserted buildings in downtown Hanoi and turned them into a breeding ground for their boundless creativity and cooperation.

Though the ‘cooperative’, located at 38 Nguyen Huy Tu street, Hai Ba Trung district, was formed only a few months ago, it is now bustling with commotion and diverse artistic activities.

According to photographer Xuan Dong, one of the earliest residents, who rents an area for his office and studio, the number of residents soared soon after the ‘cooperative’ was formed, and the population has reached over 40 people.

The five abandoned multi-floor buildings have taken on a fresh, dynamic look since the artists began arriving. The area is usually packed with visitors, including fellow artists, and art students and enthusiasts who visit frequently to seek exchanges or partnership opportunities or simply to admire the works.

Eateries, cafés, tea shops and art workshops are all decorated uniquely. One common thing they share is that they all use the same entrance.

“In my opinion, the ‘cooperative’ is no different from a close-knit neighborhood, all the residents care about and help one another wholeheartedly. As the place was deserted for a long time, we meet each other on a regular basis to work on issues such as water and electricity supplies and residence registration with the local government. We’re getting ready for our collective inauguration this month,” said artist Phuong Vu Manh.

One of the first residents, Manh dreamt of living in a concentrated art space similar to ones in the countries he has visited, where artists usually rent deserted factories at low prices and help one another with their artistic pursuits.

Manh inaugurated his workshop in June with a body art performance and has held one contemporary performance attended by foreign artists every month. He hopes to be able to hold two such performances on a monthly basis.

Composer Quoc Trung was late in renting space for his music center.

“The space provides a new, auspicious environment for my fellow artists to create their work and is a big draw to art buffs,” Trung said.

Artist Tham Cam Phuong is busy finishing a 480m2 space on the third floor of one of the buildings where she will teach art to adults and kids.

“Though there’re still lots of work to do on the complex, it’s great to have groups of artists sharing the living and working space like this, as artists tend to have impetuous creations and need coordination sometimes,” Phuong stressed.

“Though the complex is large and located downtown, the renting period is brief. However, the artists seem not to mind at all. On the contrary, the temporariness may inspire them further. They breathed contemporary breath into the deserted buildings,” said artist Le Thiet Cuong.

The residents have nicknamed their complex the “scrap square”, as the first person to live here was a scrap dealer. Her scrap is often inspiration for her artistic neighbors, who turn the useless stuff into artistically valuable installations.

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