Objects of desire (2002)

Hanoi is an urgent city, eager for change; immersing you fully in its headlong dash forward. Tradition coexists with industrialisation. The layman’s struggle for prosperity, the wealthy man’s need for the everyday object, an odd contradiction in the whirlpool of modern-day living. Both ultimately tied to a need for status – either spiritually or materially.

This exhibition features two bodies of work produced in Hanoi over the last year. Both address themes of duality and balance. Each inspired by the city’s erratic progress. A reflection of the teeming streets, tranquil pagodas and frantic markets, and the people, graciously taking it all in their stride.

In the first part, I use familiar objects like coffee filters and electric fans to hold prominence across translucent giãy dã (handmade paper). I superimpose sketches of street scenes, interwoven with status symbols. Vendors and passers-by mesh together with motorbikes and mobile phones, each consuming the other. The contrasting objects overlaid are the triumphs and necessities of existence for every key-cutter and noodle-stall woman. Also incorporated are pictograms from recycled packaging, prayers in Chinese script from pagodas and Confucian stamps.

In the second part, montage expresses the contrasting forms of worship. Pages taken from books, bought by the kilo off the street or salvaged from bins near food-stalls. These are normally used to wrap around xôi (sticky rice) or bánh my (fresh bread). Outlines of female nudes interact with the discarded texts to create fresh narratives commented on by the disposable trappings of consumerism. Knowledge, tradition, femininity and the pursuit of wealth are combined and presented as universal prayer sheets.

Hanoi. The sincerity of it’s people, eager for change, disarms you.
The hubbub consumes you. The superstition confuses you.

Their energy is seductive.

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