Aug 17, 2010

hanoi - streets of memory

two pictures from my (group) show "streets of memory", hanoi, 15-19.2010.

a quarter of 36 streets of traditional crafts of ancient hanoi has been given a very beautiful name, but not necessarily correct: "the old streets of hanoi". there is the word "old", but the word "hàng" that every street name is beginning with is missing. and they forgot about the word "craft", too. For most of people, including hanoi inhabitants, vietnamese people, as well as foreigners, those "old streets of hanoi" have a romanticised and idealised image. this image is best seen in bui xuan phai's paintings. since then, many artists have copied the famous vietnamese painter's style, mostly with hope to sell their own art works more successfully. at the end, his famous motifs of old houses with curved, tile roofs, young women in traditional ao dai tunics and conical straw hats, have landed in cheap souvenirs sold in shops for western tourists.

perhaps that idealised image of the old hanoi quarter could be seen as the result of hanoians' desire to see their own town as a quiet city of beauty, elegance and purity. in the other hand, this is an official image of the capital, which has been long maintained and popularised by vietnamese authorities. it is treated as a symbol of beauty of hanoi and its people, reaching the status of a symbol that celebrates vietnamese culture and art. at the same time, that status image is commercialised by both the vietnamese government and business, to attract more tourists to the country.

my art works play with that romanticised, idealised and commercialised image of the city.

the art works include portraits shoot in the streets.

the aim of the art works is not to capture the reality of hanoi (it is not a documentation, records of "true" images of the city), or to reconstruct the old images of hanoi. instead, it plays with the common, romantic, sentimental imagination about the city.

the girls on the pictures shake their head as saying: no :)

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