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An Interview with Ly Hoang Ly (February 03, 2004)

Conceptual artist, painter, and poet Ly Hoang Ly is preparing to bring her exhibition combining performance and installation works, Mam (Food Tray), to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Ly’s work has been viewed throughout Viet Nam, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand and the United States and she will then take Mam to Bangkok and Berlin.

The only Vietnamese poet to participate in the University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writers Program, Viet Nam News caught up with the young artist following her show Pushing Through Borders which closed last month in HCM City.

How did you and Cambodian-American writer and performance artist Anida Yoeu Esguerra develop Pushing Through Borders? Was the exhibition a success?

The concept for the exhibition was born in March 2003, when Esguerra and I performed together at the Dance Theatre Workshop in Thailand.

The exhibition included three installations [including Hair Piece and Hair Piece II], each incorporated an individual work, a collaborative work and a poem.

The installations were thematically related to each other, exploring the boundaries placed on women in Viet Nam and the US. Pushing Through Borders was constructed to examine the common ground between personal and global conceptions of women’s equality.

I encountered many difficulties which I never imagined at the beginning of the project. It really is difficult to push through the borders that separate artists from different cultures.

When we finally put up the show it was warmly received by those who came to see it.

While I don’t know whether people really liked the exhibition or not, many came on both the opening and closing days. On the last day, the electricity was cut off and we were unable to incorporate video art, sound and light.

Anida and I invited 11 artists from HCM City, including a painter, writer, poet and dancer to help us. A wonderful new space was created though the inspired use of candles, oil lamps and flash-lights. Pushing Through Borders was possibly the first combination performance held in HCM City.

You are the only Vietnamese poet invited to the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program. What did you achieve after three months in the US?

I calmed down. I read, listened, and took inspiration from different artists. My spirit was refreshed and I have a new power to create new things. I worked with dancer Judith Moessner from the University of Iowa Theatre to develop a joint dance and poetry performance based on my poem Nguoi Dan Ba Va Can Nha Co (The Woman And The Old House).

Many people know little about installation and performance art and think it is pretentious. What do you think ?

I think the purpose of installation and performance art is to create a painting in a different space using different media. The artist can use light, space, sound and objects to show his ideas. Sometimes, unconscious inspirations control the artist’s work.

The important thing is creating an environment in which the artist can share with other people what he has been thinking.

Installation and performance art is currently receiving lots of attention because it is new in Viet Nam and few artists do it.

Have contemporary media made artists’ work more diverse?

There is a natural connection between new media and new art. Artists now can and should combine video art, photography, painting, film and poetry. The medium is not important. What is most important is to express the idea. The contemporary life requires art to change. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency


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