Guerrilla Tactics #7

For Nguyễn Quốc Chánh to align his latest series of ceramic sculptures with the idea of a ‘Guerilla’ mentality, is to place them firmly within Vietnamese history and cultural memory. To understand this process, just swap the image of a jungle soldier, living opportunistically within their environment and replace it with an artist whose materials are found and requisitioned. What emerges are assemblages that fuse multiple symbols, removing them of their positions in conventions that produce individual hegemonic meanings. At a glance, it seems chaotic, but the Guerrilla is always forced to deal in chaos until balance is reached. As Chánh himself suggests, balance is the mouse that skitters between conventional lines and the cat is yet to swallow it. (MoT+++)

Sanctified Clouds

From afar, smoke has an irresistible charm, like beautiful fireworks. Modern Vietnamese history witnessed almost six decades of continual fighting (1930–1980). Flames burst on bodies, bridges, and towns. Smoke and haze of bombs resemble clouds, but also a deathly power. (RAQS Media Collective on Phuong Linh’s work at Shanghai Biennale 2016)

Almost 200 small masses of Sanctified Clouds fly over the wall, foam beautifully and shine in blue hue – the blue of peace, Oriental ceramics, and sacred mosaic paintings in Arabic temples. However, looking closely, we realize that these soft white are not clouds, but actually the masses of dust and smoke bursting all around. Phuong Linh collected images of bomb explosions, initially in the Vietnam War, and then gradually expanded to other conflicting areas in the Middle East. This expansion seems to be a reasonable progression along the history timeline, yet it is strikingly cruel when it demonstrates the repetition as never-ending acts of armed force in human history. To emphasize further the insensitive violence of bombing, Phuong Linh cut off the entire context of the photos, leaving only smoke and dust swirling in midair. When viewers are immersed in seemingly harmless and splendid clouds printed on pottery sheets, one suddenly awakens from the aesthetic illusion and realizes that he or she has fallen into a cloud of burning dust from hundreds thousands of bombs. When the exploded cloud dissolved, another explosion occurred to generate another cloud. They become immortal like saints.