Red Etude

One-channel video
5 mins

The human condition has been of central focus to much of Nguyễn Minh Phước’s conceptual work, which embraces installation, sculpture and video. Compelled to make art that addresses the social gap between rich and poor, between social elite and social downtrodden, between those who are considered intellectuals, military men or humble laborers, much of Phước’s work questions governance and control. Critical of the way in which his country’s progress lacks an awareness of its own past, a kind of endemic attitude of complacency, ‘Red Etude’ (2009) draws on several cultural narratives of Vietnam. A woman, dressed in military uniform and waving a red flag, dances the forms of ‘tai chi’, a Chinese form of meditation that believes body movement moves inner spiritual energies. In the background, black and white footage of Hanoi weaves yet another story of this military clad, traditional dance. People are shown protesting, giving alms, staring blankly in desolation, moving busily with ambiguous purpose – all of these juxtapositions are deliberate visual ploys by Phước who asks us to think harder about the contemporary identity of Vietnam. (Zoe Butt)