Didem Doğan

Pursuing the Shadows of History, Nguyen Huy An

Just as with every biennale, in this biennale too they attempted to make a connection between places and art works exhibited there. The work of the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Huy An too has a connection with this place; it is the office of Agos , the weekly newspaper of the Armenian community in Turkey, and also the headquarters of a cultural organization named after the Armenian journalist who was killed recently. The hearts of everybody in Turkey, not only the Armenian community, went out for Hrant Dink who was the victim of an assassination; just like other journalists who were sacrificed on the back of their writings in the past, his death is looming over us for these last eight years, as a continuous reminder that we cannot be there for our intellectuals who express their ideas freely. Vietnam, living in the shadow of its recent history, is a country which is trying to recover from what it has gone through. Wars, transition to a new regime, tradition and the role of the Vietnamese women; they are all associated with what this artist from the streets of Hanoi is trying to express. The tomb which serves as the final resting place of the mummified Ho Chi is in the city center of Hanoi. He is the founder of modern Vietnam and the political figure which gave a new name to Saigon. The artist has been reflecting on his shadow, but did not choose him to express her ideas; she instead chose the Lenin statue at the Hanoi Park. Lenin was another figure pivotal for Communist Vietnam. The artist measured the shadow cast over the park by the Lenin statue reflecting sunlight, formulated it into a mathematical equation and wrote it on the wall; she was trying to articulate the meaning of the shadows of two people who mobilized the people in the pursuit of a utopia. A series of round pictures of a well, commonly found in every village of Vietnam, full of water which hides many things in its depths but seems calm on the surface; in another room a large black tripod supporting a pitch black ball-I was shocked when I realized what the ball is: the hair of the Vietnamese women, dropped down and curled into a ball. Is it the shadow of the tradition? Is it the shadow of the working women in every corner of Vietnam or is it the shadow of the women’s labor which maintains the country?