Quynh Dong-Black Sea with Goldfish-20182020

Culture as identity is constructed by the collective. At the same time, culture is invariably bound to meaning, as Max Weber wrote in 1988: “From the human point of view, culture is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of…

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Culture as identity is constructed by the collective. At the same time, culture is invariably bound to meaning, as Max Weber wrote in 1988: “From the human point of view, culture is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of world events, a segment in which human beings confer meaning and significance.” In biển đen với cá vàng (black sea with goldfish), Dong questions the stereotypical image of Asia through the lens of Vietnamese art history. She draws from the influences of lacquer painting in Vietnamese art, an art form that is traditionally shaped by China and later promoted by the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine in Vietnam, to bring attention to the corporeal in relation to the construct of one’s identity. A direct reference to Pham Hau’s (1903-1995) lacquer painting ‘Goldfish in the Pond’, the work bears the spirit of Chinese landscape ink painting, which strives for atmosphere over originality. Dong further integrates Japanese Butoh dance into the landscape as a reflection of the body as a sculpture. Butoh is a break from the rational principles of modernity. Its roots can be traced back to modern German expressive dance in the 1920s, where it sought to resist both the import of Western modernism and classical Japanese dance-drama in favour of a new, contemporary and self-reflective form. In various contortions and hyper-controlled movements, the alienated body mirrors this very spirit of resistance and defiance against definition through time.

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