Saigon art exhibition examines impact of technology on nature, humans

By Sen    March 27, 2019 | 04:23 pm GMT+7

How nature is falling victim to human desires is the theme of an ongoing exhibition in Saigon.

"The irony is that much of the resulting subject matter here is toxic and destructive," The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Saigon says to introduce its Machine is Nature exhibition.

On display are photographs and moving images by 14 local and foreign artists under four themes: matters, manipulations, mechascapes (mechanic landscape), and ruminations.

One of the works in Nelly Nguyen's Food Lab series. Video courtesy of Nelly Nguyen.

The manipulations section has photos by Nelly Nguyen, a freelance photographer in Saigon, of an imagined laboratory scene showing foods being manipulated, which took her months of preparation and 24 hours for each picture.

While acknowledging technology has helped mankind meet the increasing demand for food, she challenges viewers to ponder about the intervention of science in the food industry.

One of the works in Nelly Nguyen's Food Lab series. Video courtesy of Nelly Nguyen.

"Or is it an experiment where we humans are imposing upon ourselves and are eventually manipulated by it?" Nelly asked VnExpress International rhetorically.

One of the works in Quang Lams Leaf Novel series. Photo courtesy of Quang Lam

One of the works in Quang Lam's Leaf Novel series. Photo courtesy of Quang Lam

Vietnamese-French photographer Quang Lam, 51, told VnExress International: "Leaves of a tree become leaves of a novel, meaning a writer or a poet is getting inspiration by admiring nature to create their story.

"A typewriter [is a symbol of] the development of the printing industry, which contributed to the diffusion of ideas through books, newspapers."

In some countries there are regulations about the minimum green space required in any construction, he said, adding while it seems there is no emphasis in Vietnam on planting trees or developing green spaces for walkers.

One of the works in Voshida Truongs Irreversible series. Photo courtesy of Voshida Truong.

One of the works in Voshida Truong's Irreversible series. Photo courtesy of Voshida Truong.

The angst about greenless urbanization is also apparent in Voshida Truong’s works in the ruminations section. One afternoon on a bridge in District 2, he shows a juxtaposition of a hazy Saigon and another taken at night.

"Its blurriness indicates pollution and the smog that covers cities in general," he said.

One of the works in Voshida Truongs Irreversible series. Photo courtesy of Voshida Truong.

One of the works in Voshida Truong's Irreversible series. Photo courtesy of Voshida Truong.

The youngest artist, 24 at the exhibition ruminates on how the human mind is obsessed with the permanent impacts of manmade changes and the inability to return to the beginning, which he thinks a universal anxiety.

One of the works in Hoang The Nhiems Turbine series. Photo courtesy of Hoang The Nhiem.

One of the works in Hoang The Nhiem's Turbine series. Photo courtesy of Hoang The Nhiem.

If Quang laments the dearth of vegetation in cities, Hoang The Nhiem, 59, depicts their decay in the ruminations section. He places the stump and roots of a dead cork tree as the centerpiece of a work.

"The old cork forest gave land for human habitats and nature brought them food. Machines destroyed the cork forest to bring electricity. Both were used to serve humans."

Taken at the Bac Lieu Wind Farm, Vietnam’s biggest, the bleak image of the dead stump communicates Nhiem's hope for a harmonious relationship between nature and industrialization.

One of the works in Nguyen Xuan Khanhs Titan Sand series. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Xuan Khanh.

One of the works in Nguyen Xuan Khanh's Titan Sand series. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Xuan Khanh.

Unlike other artists who are driven by social issues, Nguyen Xuan Khanh, 71, took this picture after being influenced by the late Mario Giacomelli of Italy.

The artist said he embraces Giacomellia’s vision of "Le blanc, c'est le néant et le noir ce sont les cicatrices" (White is nothingness and black are scars).

The man in the picture, ostensibly a resident of a nearby fishing village, has a fishing net over his shoulders. The photographer did not find out his name. 

The photo was taken at the Titan Mining Factory in Binh Dinh Province, 635 km northeast of  Saigon. Titanium mining and processing started in Vietnam in 1990 and the industry has seen a constant expansion ever since. Vietnam is one of the five largest titanium producers in the world.

Machine is Nature goes on until April 21.

 
 
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