Critics’ Picks

Hà Ninh, One, Two, Many no.3 (detail), 2022, installation, PLA plastic, dry wall,  70 7/8 x 55 1/8 x 315".

Hà Ninh, One, Two, Many no.3 (detail), 2022, installation, PLA plastic, dry wall, 70 7/8 x 55 1/8 x 315".


“Fractured Times”

The Outpost
L2 - B1 Roman Plaza, To Huu
November 29, 2022–February 28, 2023

For the inaugural exhibition of the Outpost, the first locally owned private museum for contemporary art in Vietnam, “Fractured Times,” Lê Thuận Uyên, the space’s artistic director and curator, has invited us on a nonlinear visual journey to the past and the future. Strewn along the walls and floor of one gallery, Hoàng Thành Vĩnh Phong’s remarkable lacquer-painted mattresses evoke the memories of migration and refuge seeking that have haunted generations of Vietnamese. The Hội An–based artist offers the mattress as a witness throughout human life to our changing states of happiness, sadness, and misery and, ultimately, to our death. The exhibition turns to another “living fossil” with Nguyễn Phương Linh’s mixed-media installation The Last Ride, 2017, which revisits the history of Vietnam’s Central Highlands through the figure of the elephant, a symbol of power and spirituality among different Indigenous communities. For this piece, Phương Linh desconstructed the traditional howdah carriage and transformed it into aluminium sculptures laced with LED and glass. While Hoàng’s mattresses testify to the country’s postwar period, Nguyễn’s objects travel back in time to the French colonial era to explore how remnants of that time and space still affect contemporary Vietnam.

A newly commissioned work by Hà Ninh reflects the everyday realities that have been dominated and accelerated by the digital age. The artist spent several years composing maps of fictional lands and even invented his own language, “Loop Script,” which he loosely based on new media and the virtual world. To experience the newest iteration of this script, One, Two, Many, no. 3, 2022, viewers have to ascend a platform and look down into a sleek white vessel, almost reminiscent of Noah’s Ark in shape or even, given the anthropomorphic attributes of the script, of a coffin. Meanwhile, Lý Trần Quỳnh Giang’s quiet and haunting oil-on-canvas painting series “Where they turn to,” 2017–18, offers not only a gentle reminder of the lost era of the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine under the French, but also a meditation on the presiding sentiment of a generation of postwar artists and, more generally, on the general melancholia of today.