Strategies from Within

Strategies from Within: An Exhibition of Vietnamese and Cambodian Contemporary Art Practices, 在野策略: 越南與柬埔寨當代文化現狀

Last summer, a scholastic exhibition bearing international fame and influence named “Rejected Collection” with Biljana as its curator has been successfully held in Ke Center for Contemporary Arts. One year afterwards, during the busy September filled with art events in Shanghai, an exhibition of Vietnamese and Cambodian contemporary art practices named “Strategies from Within” will draw up the curtain in Ke Center. Ke Center for Contemporary Arts and its curator group regard this exhibition as constructive for the history of Shanghai art exhibitions once imported and promoted, for it encourages artists to think of the origin and the social root of art creation, rather to keep an independent attitude for art than to sink with the to some extent foaming Chinese contemporary art circle. 

Strategies from Within shares this vision of the importance of personal revolutions and change. The exhibition is the result of research conducted in Saigon, Phnom Penh and Hanoi. The undertaken research attempts to allow for a wider reflection of the contemporary culture in both Vietnam and Cambodia through the presented bodies of work. This exhibition strategically presents artists from different generations in order to show the shifts in the range of issues that they encounter and deal with, and the presentation methods of their works. This project also involves a variety of themes that the different individuals present as crucial to their practice, revealing a broader perception of the societies in which they inhabit through their artworks. The foundational curatorial concept of the exhibition is to present key figures in their local contexts; to present many up and coming artists in the most complete way possible, representing their overall artistic oeuvre; and to present works of art that will provide the audience better insight into the issues that the artists themselves try to raise in connection to their local scenes. Despite the use of the group exhibition framework, and the inclusion of artists from two countries, the exhibition attempts to emphasize the individual presence of each artist in the strongest way possible, presenting works from different periods and locations, thereby combining the presentation of different bodies of work within the larger exhibition to create a model that is somewhere in-between the solo exhibition and group exhibition format.

At the same time, the exhibition tries to push the possibilities of the artists towards more active participation within group exhibitions in general. Vietnam and Cambodia are currently in a process of building their own intellectual critical discourses, which today remains underground, alluding to the issues of both nations’ political and economic development. The work that has been done by certain of these individuals and the small number of institutions in recent years past spans a spectrum much broader than the visual arts. This work has also provided and built new cultural, educational, and discussion platforms that fill the voids left behind by many turbulent years of war and upheaval. Simultaneously, these young intellectuals and artists are building a critical discourse and practice while also trying to rebuild the cultural milieu of their own societies. The new possibilities and uncertain futures that are characteristic of these circumstances create a recipe for cultural practices that are little known to the rest of the world, and which develop their own survival techniques and strategies in this time of globalization? one of many issues that they are currently grappling with. Since they have generally received less attention from the global art world and art market, this has provided a certain amount of independence for the development of their own contemporary artistic practices, although it has been difficult to develop these survival strategies with little or no institutional support system. Nowadays the art market is also greatly influenced by the economy-driven social environment.

Ke Center for Contemporary Arts and its curator organize this exhibition not to seek novelty, nor to cater to the global interests in art works from South East Asia, but to display the current art and culture condition of these two countries in the most grand and ceremonious manner, and to look at the individual revolution and listen to their independent thoughts in the most plain yet direct way. The exhibition also contains a few smaller projects within its framework. A reading room project was inspired by the artists’ practice of establishing libraries and reading rooms in their homes, and in the galleries of Saigon, as a result of the lack of information and publications available to them. For the exhibition we asked artists to borrow the books that they think are of great significance to the local scene to be introduced throughout the course of the exhibition. The Alternative Archive publication will also collect texts and articles about the local scenes, including critical discourses and other writings, to act as a guide for a better overview of the issues and strategies employed by the professionals working in the field of contemporary art practices.

Curator: Biljana Ciric

Artists: Tiffany Chung, Chan Dany, Hoang Duong Cam, Dinh Q. Lê, Nguyen Manh Hung, Nguyen Trinh Thi, Tuan Andrew Nguyen in collaboration with Wowy, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Sopheap Pich, Leang Seckon, Phe Sophon, Richard Streitmatter-Tran, Tran Luong, Truong Tan, Vandy Rattana



Strategies from Within
Curated by Biljana Ciric
Ke Center for Contemporary Art
Shanghai, China
September 7-24, 2008

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