Do Tuong Linh

Do Tuong Linh is a curator/ art researcher from Hanoi, Vietnam. Linh holds a BA in Art History and theoretical criticism from Vietnam University of Fine Arts and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa at SOAS (University of London). UK with the prestigious Alphawood scholarship. She has engaged in various art exhibitions and projects in Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and Europe since 2005. She is a fellow researcher for Site and Space in Southeast Asia – a research project run by the Power Institute, University of Sydney, Australia funded by Getty Image Foundation, USA. She is also the representative of Vietnam to participate in many prestigious international cultural arts programs such as Ljubljana Graphic Art Biennial 2019, Slovenia; Association of Art Museum Curators conference, New York, USA; Mekong Cultural Hub 2018 – 2019, Taiwan; CIMAM International Museum Workshop 2018, Oslo, Norway; Asia Culture Center (Gwangju, Korea) 2018; Tate Intensive 2018, Tate Modern Museum, UK; French Encounter at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. … Some of her notable curated exhibitions include Citizen Earth 2020 (Hanoi, Vietnam), The Foliage 3 (VCCA, Vincom Center for Contemporary Arts, Hanoi, Vietnam) 2019, Geo-Resilience of the All-world at La Colonie (Paris, France) 2018, No War, No Vietnam exhibition at Galerie Nord (Berlin, Germany) 2018, SEAcurrents (London, UK) 2017.
September 19, 2022
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your work as a curator?
I first got my BFA in Art History at the Vietnam University of Fine Art (formerly École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine) in Hanoi, Vietnam. During this time I worked for many art/project spaces and institutions in Vietnam. Most of my work during this time centered around Vietnam and Southeast Asia. In 2015, I moved to London to pursue my MA in Contemporary Art of Asia and Africa at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London). Since then I have been working and traveling between Asia, Europe, and Africa. I was so drawn to the arts and connections that we were hardly aware of, such as the Asia-Africa connection, art from the Eastern Bloc, and the cultural exchanges from those connections.
Can you tell us about this exhibition?
VCCA – Vincom Center for Contemporary Art is the first corporate-run contemporary art space in Vietnam. When it first opened in 2017, the inaugural exhibition was titled Foliage with the mission to promote Vietnamese contemporary art and enforce international art and cultural exchanges. Each year since then they’ve presented Foliage 2, Foliage 3… etc. However, due to Covid-19, Foliage 4 was delayed until this year. For this edition, I invited Abhijan Toto (The Forest Curriculum) to be my co-curator.
What is the genesis of the exhibition – where did it start for you?
Part of the genesis for this show started in 2019 when I initiated and curated a project called Citizen Earth, which also centered around the topic of artistic engagement and the response to environmental and climate issues. I was fascinated by the creative works, research, and interdisciplinary conversations that came out of this project. When I started the conversation with Abhijan back in May, I thought that an international collaboration would spice up and bring new energy to Hanoi – a city that was quite isolated from the world during the pandemic. Although the main theme of the exhibition is around Nature, Environment, and Climate Crisis; it also reflects many intimate and poetic stories.
What are you hoping viewers and the broader art community take away from the exhibition?
For this show, many Vietnamese diaspora artists had the opportunity to show their works in Vietnam for the first time. I want to challenge the notion of ‘diaspora’ as we once framed it, especially for a younger generation where transnational and transcultural mobility is part of their everyday life. For instance, Abhijan Toto was born of South Asian heritage but has worked in many different contexts such as Korea, Thailand, Denmark, Germany, and many more. Or, Gabi Dao, who is a Vietnamese-Canadian artist working across the contexts of Canada, Vietnam, and The Netherlands. In times of isolation, border restriction, and BLM, I hope the audience will have an opportunity to be immersed in this show, experience complicated visual narratives, and take something away with them.
What excites you the most about the Vietnamese (and the diaspora) art scene today?
For a country that was so tied historically to division, segregation, and trauma for centuries due to colonialism, war, and internal conflicts, which resulted in the displacement of Vietnamese migrants all around the world. Only now, with the fresh attitude and energy of younger generations, I feel that we are able to meet or be in conversation on different platforms. With this instant and ever-changing flux of exchanges, many creative and research projects can come to fruition. There’s not only a dominant narrative of Vietnamese art and the war but other interesting perspectives have emerged. This gets me excited and I look forward to more future stories being told and unpacked.
You’ve mentioned how a curator’s job is to “build, nurture, and protect the artist’s idea and the second is to provide the audience with an accessible pathway to the artworks.” How did you consider creating those pathways for different audiences?
I do believe artists are the soul of an exhibition/creative process. My role is like a midwife to accompany and help them to grow and give birth to the artwork. For the Berlin Biennale, my aim was less about promoting solely Vietnamese/Asian artists on such a global platform, however, I think the most important thing was to create conversations amongst the artists and public that could expand further to friendships and future collaboration. For this particular show in Vietnam, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’d like to invite the local audience and art community to engage in a fresh artistic experience that might challenge their perception and imagination. And I think that’s the power of art.

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