Feeling both intrigue and familiarity towards Soviet-era architecture and iconic elements in Vilnius, Lithuania, during her residency, Ngoc Nau draws from historical references and collected oral histories in her host country to explore multifaceted aspects of post-Soviet realities in Vietnam.
Virtual Reverie: Echoes of a Forgotten Utopia, 2023
Single-channel video installation, colour, sound, papier-mâché projection screen, metal chains, 6 min 24 sec
Essay: Lenin Park (2023) by Phuong Phan
Video editor and CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery): Ngoc Nau
Assistant directors: Ha Dao and Hyo Jung Kim
Camera: Linh DN
Lighting: Thao Hoang, Son Hoang, and Tu Le
Sound: Dustin Ngo
Dancers: C.O. crew
Her video installation, Virtual Reverie: Echoes of a Forgotten Utopia, portrays contemporary life amidst the remnants of socialist architecture and monuments. With the use of 3D animation and visual effects, the work demonstrates the transformative power of technology in reshaping our perceptions of reality.
Central to the work is a meticulously constructed representation of the Vietnam-Soviet Friendship Palace of Culture and Labour, a venue still being used for events today. Serving as a stage for five hip-hop dancers embarking on a symbolic journey, the building is symbolic of the enduring presence of socialist architecture in a contemporary landscape; representing the preservation of a bygone era and the relics of a once-powerful regime. Also playing a significant role in the work is an evocative three-dimensional scan of a Lenin statue originally erected at Lukiškės Square in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Its removal in 1991, with legs severed, became a powerful emblem of historical upheaval and transformation: the collapse of socialism as well as the restoration of independence. As the characters traverse across time and space, dancing and interacting with their environment, they bridge the gap between historical artifacts and contemporary experiences. Echoing the ebb and flow of ideologies, their passage brings forth the formation of new meanings as past memories evolve in the face of shifting landscapes.
The projection screen in the installation is created by the artist using papier mâché, a technique also used by mask makers in Vietnam. Its textured surface provides a topographic landscape onto which the moving image is projected. Along with the video work is an essay Lenin Park (2023) by Nau’s collaborator Phuong Phan, a Berlin-based Vietnamese researcher and writer. Taking the Lenin Park in Hanoi as a point of departure, the essay contextualises socialism in Vietnam in the present time. The essay can be read online here.
The multimedia practice of Ngoc Nau (b. 1989, Vietnam) encompasses photography, holograms and augmented reality (AR). She is currently working with 3D software and other open- source technologies to create new possibilities for video installation. In Nau’s work, different materials and techniques attempt to capture the subtle ways in which new media shape and dictate our views of reality. Blending traditional culture and spiritual beliefs with modern technologies and lifestyles, her work often responds to Vietnam’s accelerated urban development. Her works have been featured in several exhibitions across Asia, including the Thailand Biennale, Korat (2021) and the Singapore Biennale (2019) among others. She also participated in documenta 15, Kassel, Germany (2022) with Sa Sa Art Projects.