Do Tuong Linh

Do Tuong Linh is a curator/art researcher from Hanoi, Vietnam. Linh holds a BA from Vietnam University of Fine Arts and an MA from University of London, UK. She has engaged in various art exhibitions and projects in Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and Europe since 2005. Some of her notable curated exhibitions include Berlin Biennale 2022 (Berlin, Germany), 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, and more.

THAT: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your work as a curator?
DTL:  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.

THAT: Can you tell us about this exhibition?
DTL: VCCA - Vincom Center for Contemporary art is Vietnam's first corporate-run contemporary art space. When it’s 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 and Foliage 3. However, due to Covid-19, Foliage 4 was delayed until this year. For this edition, I invited Abhijan Toto from The Forest Curriculum to be my co-curator.

THAT: What is the exhibition's genesis — where did it start for you?
DTL: 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 that project. When I started the conversation with Abhijan back in May, I was thinking that an international collaboration would spice up and bring new energy to Hanoi. This city 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.

THAT: What are you hoping viewers and the broader art community take away from the exhibition?
DTL: 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 across 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 the opportunity to be immersed in this show, experience the complicated visual narratives, and take something away with them.

THAT: What excites you the most about today's Vietnamese (and the diaspora) art scene?
DTL: 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 displaced all around the world. Only now, with the fresh attitude and energy of younger generations, we can 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.

THAT: 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.” Coming off doing the Berlin Biennale with a more Euro-centric audience to now doing a show of Vietnamese-diasporic artists in Vietnam, how did you consider creating those pathways for different audiences?
DTL: 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. 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 for this particular show in Vietnam. And I think that's the power of art.

THAT: What's next for you?
DTL: I will be in NYC from January 2023 to carry on my research about Asian diaspora art collectives as a fellow of ACC New York. I am very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to meeting more people and continuing the conversation.


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